COPENHAGEN: Denmark will close all schools and universities and will start sending home all employees in the public sector with non-critical jobs in the coming days to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the prime minister said on Wednesday (Mar 11).
Denmark had 514 people diagnosed with the coronavirus as of Wednesday, rising 10-fold since Monday in what Health Minister Magnus Heunicke described as the "most dramatic increase seen in Europe".
All students at schools and universities will be sent home from Friday, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, adding that all day care facilities will be closed from Monday.
Frederiksen also urged all events with more than 100 people to be cancelled, tightening the number from 1,000 previously.
“All private-sector employers are encouraged to ensure that as many employees as possible are able to work from home,” Frederiksen said, as quoted by Bloomberg.
“We need to limit activity in society as much as possible, without letting our society grind to a halt.”
"This will have huge consequences, but the alternative would be far worse," said Frederiksen according to the Local, which quoted the Ekstra Bladet newspaper.
"Under normal circumstances, a government would not present such far-reaching measures without having all the solutions ready for the many Danes concerned, but we are in an extraordinary situation."
About US$20 billion in tax breaks will be given to help companies cope with the fallout of the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported.
"We will not get through this as a country without a cost. Businesses will close. Some will lose their jobs. We will do what we can to mitigate the consequences for employees," the prime minister said.
Søren Brostrøm, director of the The Danish Health Authority, said that he expected the number of cases to increase rapidly in the coming days and weeks.
Neighbouring Sweden, with around 460 confirmed cases, reported its first death on Wednesday. The country has banned public gatherings of more than 500 people to stop the spread of the disease.