COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CN) — Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and health authorities introduced a new strategy Wednesday to prevent a serious Covid-19 outbreak that includes offering vulnerable Danes a fourth vaccine shot.
The situation is under control, Frederiksen assured. But recent numbers show that Denmark is experiencing a “minor summer wave,” the Danish Health Authority said about the Covid-19 spread on Wednesday.
“We now have a new variant that spreads fast in Europe and Denmark. Our authorities say that this new variant is more contagious than the previous one,” Frederiksen said.
The new omicron subvariant called BA.5 is rapidly spreading. Numbers of confirmed infections in Denmark rose by 53% last week.
On Tuesday, Danish Minister of Health Magnus Heunicke tweeted that BA.5 is now the dominant variant in Denmark and accounts for 59% of all cases.
The virus was first detected in South Africa and has been called a cause for concern by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and the World Health Organization.
BA.5 infections are supposedly milder and are not thought to be more lethal compared to other types of Covid-19, but it appears to spread faster. While vaccinations and having antibodies does help, immunity will decrease over time, meaning that infections still can happen.
The subvariant raised concerns for South Africans in early May but subsided this month after a relatively small wave in the country.
However, the same story does not apply in Portugal. The country saw a spike in deaths partially related to BA.5, the Guardian reported earlier this month. Germany has also recorded an excess mortality rate due to its latest Covid-19 wave, said Henrik Ullum, director of Denmark's Serum Institute, on Wednesday.
That is why Denmark has prepared to offer a fourth Covid-19 dose to its residents starting next week. It will only be offered to especially vulnerable people at first, with a fourth shot expected to be available for all Danish residents over the age of 50 this autumn.
Thousands will travel to Denmark next week to watch the first three stages of the Tour de France, which might raise concerns about the spread of BA.5. But attendees should not worry too much about the virus, said Søren Brostrøm, director general of the Danish Health Authority.
“We recommend taking a test if you have symptoms,” he said Wednesday. “Concerning the risks for Denmark, we do not have any plans on recommending restrictions for any big events.”
BA.5 is also spreading in the United States. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the subvariant makes up 23,5% of all Covid cases in the U.S.
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