COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark may gradually lift a lockdown after Easter if the numbers of coronavirus cases and deaths remain stable, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Monday.
The Nordic country, which has reported 77 coronavirus-related deaths, last week extended until after Easter a two-week lockdown to limit physical contact between its citizens that began on March 11.
“Over the past week the number of hospital admissions has risen slightly slower than the week before and without the explosion in the numbers that we have seen in other countries,” Frederiksen told a news conference.
Last week, the number of hospitalizations for coronavirus in Denmark roughly doubled from 254 to 533, whereas admissions in the week before that more than tripled from the previous week, according to data from the Danish Health Authority.
The number of daily deaths slowed to five on Sunday from eight and 11 on Saturday and Friday respectively. Denmark has reported a total of 2,577 coronavirus infections.
“If we over the next two weeks across Easter keep standing together by staying apart, and if the numbers remain stable for the next two weeks, then the government will begin a gradual, quiet and controlled opening of our society again, at the other side of Easter,” Frederiksen said.
Denmark has imposed less strict limits on daily life than in Italy or France where people are only free to leave their homes to buy groceries, go to work if essential or seek medical care.
But the Danish approach has been considerably tougher than that of neighboring fellow European Union country Sweden, which remains largely open for business.
Danish authorities have restricted public assembly to 10 or fewer people, ordered the closure of schools, universities, day cares, restaurants, cafes, libraries, gyms and hair salons, and shut all borders to most foreigners.
A reopening would probably include people attending schools and work in shifts to avoid rush-hour traffic and too many people gathering in public at the same time, Frederiksen said.
“We do see signs that we have succeeded in delaying the transmission of corona in Denmark. The transmission is spreading slower than feared,” she said.
Frederiksen said she hoped to be able to present a plan for the first phase of a reopening by the end of this week after consultation with the other parties in government.
More than 738,400 people have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide and 35,006 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The countries that have suffered the most deadly outbreaks are both in Europe - Italy and Spain.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Andreas Mortensen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Heinrich
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