Denmark Head Into Lockdown as PM Warns Toughest Weeks Are Yet to Come

Denmark will move into a lockdown over Christmas after the country recorded its highest number of new coronavirus infections since the pandemic hit.

“The winter months may well be the most difficult,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a briefing late on Wednesday.

Shopping centers closed across the country from Thursday, while all school kids that aren’t already doing virtual lessons will be sent home on Monday. From Dec. 25, all shops, except those that sell food and medicine, will be shuttered. The lockdown will last into the first week of the new year, she said.

“To close society down is the most far-reaching decision we can make in response to the coronavirus,” Frederiksen said. “We’re of course doing everything” to avoid a prolonged lockdown, but “right now, we need one.”

Denmark, which stood out earlier this year as a country that handled the pandemic better than most, had already closed restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms in a partial lockdown that started earlier this month. Those restrictions were introduced to ensure a full lockdown wouldn’t be needed later.

But as temperatures have dropped and Danes have sought each other’s company indoors, the virus has continued to spread.

On Thursday, 4,034 new infections were reported by local health authorities. That’s the highest daily tally recorded so far, with the sudden increase only partly explained by a rise in testing. The country’s death toll now stands at almost 1,000.

Denmark Head Into Lockdown as PM Warns Toughest Weeks Are Yet to Come

The spike in new cases is putting unprecedented pressure on the Nordic country’s universal health-care system. On Wednesday, hospital authorities in the greater Copenhagen area said all non-urgent procedures would be postponed starting next week, to free up resources to treat Covid-19 patients.

The full lockdown will also take its toll on the economy, Frederiksen said.

“Shutting down the economy comes at a cost,” she said. “It did in the spring, and it will now.”

Soren V. Kristensen, chief economist at Sydbank, said he doesn’t expect the latest restrictions to be as devastating to the economy as those in the spring. But he also warned that companies are worn out after living with the pandemic for most of the year.

“In the spring, Danish companies entered the crisis with a very robust economy, but many of the hardest hit industries are now stretched thin,” he said in a note.

“The Danish economy now faces the threat of higher unemployment and bankruptcies,” he said.

Frederiksen said the government will continue to provide financial help to businesses affected by the restrictions. On Thursday it announced the expansion of existing support measures, including a wage compensation program, and a new 7 billion-krone ($1.1 billion) liquidity boost to small and medium sized businesses.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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