Opinion: Re-opening of Denmark amid COVID-19: Are Children at the Crossroad?

The School and Parents Organisation encourages nervous parents to wait for further
guidelines regarding the reopening plans. Photo: mgorthand / istock

Denmark was locked down amid the COVID-19 outbreak on 13th March. Though the lock down has flattened the curve of corona infected figures but it has already made substantial impact on the economy with businesses shot downed and unemployment rates at highest. The govt announced a generous package but economy can only be recovered if it starts kicking.

Read more: Corona crisis: The number of unemployed crosses record 40,000

Considering various aspect, the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen announced that Denmark will be re-opened gradually right after Easter holidays from 15th April. Contrary to the popular thoughts, she declared that kindergarten and up to 5th grade school kids will open Denmark. The announcement received criticism from public and some authorities while some experts say it makes sense to let kids be first to open Denmark. But do parents agree and will they send their children to the kindergarten and school? Will children be as safe in their institutions as they used to be less than a month ago? The list of bewilderment goes on.

Read more: Minister: It counts as absence if the children are kept at home

Simply said, the PM and her cabinet seem to be very confident on children being the least
vulnerable group from the pandemic Covid-19. As of now there has been no fatality recorded for the children below the age of 10 while the fatality rate of children between the age of 10-19 years has been merely 0.2 percentage globally.

Talking about Denmark, until 6th of April some 47,240 people have been tested and nearly 10 per cent i.e. 4,681 have been positive while 4 percent of the infected have been reported dead according to the data provided by the health ministry. Digging deep into the data shows that there has been a significant fall in the number of people tested positive. The percentage of positive cases was 11.3% of the total tested between 27th of January and 22nd of march while it was 16.5% on 28th of March. Since then there has been constant decrease on the cases tested positive dropping the figure to 7.8% on the 5th of April. It is also worth noting that except in the last two days, the number of tests conducted was in increasing order, resulting in the increased number of infected cases.

Now the question is, can we rely on the data and announce the reopening of Denmark? Has the curve really flattened and can the couple of days’ decreasing number of positive cases be enough evidence to support the decision? What if the case gets worse during the Easter holiday and the number rises again in a couple of weeks? The evident fact is that the person infected may take up to two weeks, in some cases even more, for any symptoms. And the number of infected persons this single person may transmit the virus to may go up while those newly transmitted may transmit to innumerable other new ones, which can be horrifying. The government until now has been pleading the public to maintain the social distance during the shutdown. By and large, the public had avoided the congregation of more than ten people as per the government’s urge. This must have been the reason, among few others, why the number of positive cases seems to be under control.

However, with the possible mobility after the kindergarten and primary school opens, the parents will come in contact with each other unintentionally and the school staff will see each other resulting in larger gatherings. This will make the kindergarten and the school a likely prone zone if even a single person is infected and then the multiplying number will outwit the decision of re-opening such institutions. With the opening of kindergartens and schools, the mobility is obvious to go higher in supermarkets and other groceries, which are going to be other risk-involved places. Not to forget, the Easter holiday may witness some secret assemblies and gatherings with increased risk.

Read more: Minister: No schools and institutions have to reopen until everything is in place

Considering public outrage and continuous worldwide outbreak, the Danish authorities has to take the decision back since the virus will still play its role for a little while longer and there still prevails the risk of transmission. But the situation after a couple of more weeks is definitely going to be different from what it is now. More importantly, the initial signs of flattening curves in the hard-hit countries like Italy, Spain, Germany and France will mature, giving enough of hint, if not concrete evidence, which direction the Corona crisis is heading to. Based on these data, a relatively easy, yet convincing decision could be taken. Not only the people of Denmark but from most of the countries around the world have been admiring the decision of Danish government in early sealing of its borders and detachment of its sky route with the other parts of the
world. The result has paid with the cases being limited to less than 5000 infected ones until now while many countries have been hit worse.

Read more: Professor: »Børn er meget lidt modtagelige for corona. Dette er absolut ikke en dristig plan

Having said that, one cannot disregard the economic loss the country has faced in the past three weeks or so. On top of that is the approximately DKK 2.5 trillion’s help package, the government has announced to compensate the companies hit by the crisis, is an added burden on the government. Additionally, the increasing discourse of ‘a great recession, if not a great depression, is another factor which the government might have taken into consideration while deciding the re-opening of Denmark. Besides, a higher unemployment, increased level of stress among the public, debt, and many more awaiting crisis could have also been taken into consideration by the government.

However, the key concern is who would benefit ultimately if an extra prolonged week of closure is announced? The answer is obvious, the citizens of Denmark. This extra week of added lock down could be the time when the public make up their mind that the re-opening
is right at our doorstep. Besides, the public will feel relatively safer to send their children to schools and they could resume their work with relative ease and less worry which would ultimately become the key for the government to win both the heart and trust of its people.

By: Roshan K. Khatiwada
Master’s student
International Development and Global Studies
Roskilde University

Editor: Naqeeb Khan

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