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Fact Check-Posts misconstrue lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Denmark, Sweden and Norway

Update Oct. 11, 2021: Adds paragraph four to include clarification from author of viral tweet. Adding link to Norwegian government COVID-19 vaccination rates website to new paragraph 21. Updates new paragraph 23 to make clear that COVID-19 certificates are no longer used for events in Norway.

Denmark, Sweden and Norway have eased or eliminated all of their COVID-19 related restrictions, but posts falsely claiming this means their governments stopped believing in the pandemic or vaccination efforts are missing key context: These countries have achieved high vaccination rates and a low case incidence.

Most users are sharing a screenshot of a tweet ( here ), which has been retweeted over 11,300 times.

“Denmark (flag emoji): Removed all restrictions. No covid passport requirements. Sweden (flag emoji): Will remove practically all restrictions. No covid passport. Norway (flag emoji): Removing all restrictions tomorrow. No covid passport requirements.”

The author told Reuters his tweet intended only to state the fact that these three countries had removed COVID-19 restrictions.

Some users replicating the text on social media commented that it suggests these countries stopped believing in the existence of COVID-19 or the worth of public health measures like facemask wearing and vaccines.

“Time to Wake up! Covid is the common cold and there is no cure for the common cold,” a Facebook user added in part of their post ( here). “More and more countries are going to treat this like the flu now,” another one wrote ( here ).

Another user replying to the above tweet wrote: “Goodness the Vaccine Vocals and Mask Muppets are gonna hate this saneness (sic)” ( here ).

DENMARK

As of Oct. 7, Denmark had administered at least 8,792,456 doses of COVID vaccines. Assuming every person needs 2 doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 75.6% of the country’s population ( here ). The Nordic country had 53 infections per 100K people reported in the last 7 days, which represents 12% of the peak Denmark registered on Dec. 17, 2020.

For the latest data see the Reuters tracker, here.

On Sept. 10, Denmark lifted all COVID-19 related restrictions, declaring that the disease was no longer a “critical threat to society” ( here ). In a statement, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke credited vaccination and the Danish population’s compliance with measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Further reporting by DW and Euronews is viewable youtu.be/3du0Ej32sHk?t=177, here.

Contacted by Reuters, Lone Simonsen, epidemiologist and professor of population health sciences at Roskilde University, concurred with Heunicke’s assessment.

“It is exactly the high vaccination coverage — especially among older adults at greatest risk for serious covid — the reason Denmark can open up. Over 95% of Danes over 50 are fully vaccinated,” she said via email.

Denmark was one of the few countries to have a system of vaccine certificates, or "passports", working domestically. Following widespread lockdown measures introduced in December 2020, the country introduced a “corona-passport” in April 2021, which showed whether the holder had been vaccinated, had previously been infected or had taken a test within the last 72 hours ( here , here ). But as of Sept. 10, this passport was no longer necessary to enter nightclubs, ending the last remaining restriction.

SWEDEN

As of Oct. 6, Sweden had administered at least 13,888,321 doses of COVID vaccines, enough to have vaccinated about 65.7% of the population with two doses. The country had 42 infections per 100K people reported in the past 7 days ( here, here ).

Sweden removed most remaining pandemic restrictions on Sept. 29, eliminating most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums.

Sweden has been an outlier in aspects of its handling of the disease, shunning hard lockdowns throughout the pandemic and relying heavily on voluntary recommendations regarding issues such as social distancing and hygiene ( here ).

Jan Albert, Professor of Infectious Disease Control at Karolinska Institutet ( staff.ki.se/people/jan-albert ) also attributed the end of most restrictions in Sweden to a high vaccination rate and a low number needing hospitalization and intensive care.

“Importantly, some recommendations still apply for unvaccinated individuals, who are recommended to continue to work from home and avoid close social contact, especially with elderly, but also crowded public transportation, shopping malls, etc. This shows that Swedish authorities consider these restrictions effective (for unvaccinated),” he added. Such guidelines are visible here: ( here ).

On Sept. 7, Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said the government was also looking into the possible use of vaccination certificates for some activities, though it hoped these would not be necessary to impose in a country with a long history of high vaccination rates. More information viewable bit.ly/3llhIz0 .

NORWAY

As of Oct. 7, Norway had administered at least 7,844,501 doses of COVID vaccines, enough to have vaccinated about 73.3% of the population with two doses. ( here , here ). The country had 61 infections per 100K people reported over the past 7 days, about 30% of its peak (reported on Sept. 6) and falling. The Norwegian government updates information on COVID-19 vaccination rates on its website here .

Norway ended its coronavirus-curving restrictions on Sept. 29 ( here ). "Even though everyday life is now back to normal for most people, the pandemic is not over. People will still get sick and therefore it is important that everyone gets vaccinated," Prime Minister Erna Solberg highlighted in a news conference on Sept. 24.

The country introduced a vaccination certificate in June for holders to enter events in Norway ( here ). As of Oct. 7, the certificate, which documents immunization, illness or a negative test result ( here ) is no longer used for events in Norway but still used when travelling ( here ).

Reuters previously debunked another false claim about the Norwegian response to the pandemic here

VERDICT

Missing context. Denmark, Sweden and Norway ended all or most of its COVID-19 related restrictions due to an epidemic control and a high vaccination rate, not because they stopped believing in the pandemic or vaccination efforts, as claimed on social media.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here   . 

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