Cases involving the variable are increasing 70 percent weekly in Denmark, despite a strict lockdown, according to the Danish State Serum Institute, a government agency that tracks diseases and advises on health policy.
“We’re missing out on some of the tools we have to control the epidemic,” said Tyra Grove Krause, the institute’s scientific director, who has begun sequencing every positive coronavirus test to check for mutations. By contrast, the United States ranks 0.3 percent of cases 43 in the world Leaving it largely blind to the spread of the variant.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested for the first time on Friday that The alternative could be more deadly From the original virus. Since it can spread more easily, it can also quickly overwhelm medical systems, turning previously survivable virus episodes into risky ones if hospitals are full and medical care is limited.
Danish public health officials say that were it not for the intense monitoring, they would have felt a false sense of confidence at the moment. In general, the daily new confirmed cases of coronavirus in Denmark have decreased for a month.
“Without this alternative, we’d be in really good shape,” said Camilla Holten Muller, co-leader of the Country Serum Institute group that designs the spread of the virus.
“If you looked at the reproduction number, you wouldn’t see it growing underneath it at all,” she said.
But the British variant It’s spreading so quickly that the Danish authorities predict it will be the dominant strain of the virus in their country as early as mid-February.
As a result, Danish officials say, daily coronavirus cases there could quadruple by early April. Charts from the Institute of Public Health indicate that in the worst-case scenario of infection, even with a strict lockdown in reality, cases will rise dramatically.
“This period is going to be a bit like a tsunami, the way you stand on the beach and then all of a sudden you can see all the water receding,” Krause said, as cases decrease. “Then you will be overwhelmed by a tsunami.”
The first warning came to Krause on December 14th. The British virus researchers have taken the fingerprints of a new strain that appears to be spreading widely in the pockets of its population. When they uploaded the genetic code to a public database of images, they saw that Danish researchers published mutations that matched three positive cases, meaning that the more aggressive version of the virus had begun to move beyond Britain.
The substitute arrived in Denmark as early as 14 November, and was already spreading within its borders.
When the British alternative was identified as a dangerous new risk, Denmark already had a somewhat tight lockdown. But it closed primary schools that were previously open. Halved the number of people who would gather in public places to five. It has banned non-essential international travel and imposed strict requirements that new arrivals at its borders lead to negative test results in less than 24 hours.
Denmark has also launched a well-disciplined vaccination program, which is one of the fastest vaccination programs in Europe, although Britain and the United States took the lead in having approved the first vaccines earlier.
However, issues involving the UK variable are growing exponentially in Denmark. British studies have estimated that the strain is 30 to 70 percent more contagious than the original strain. Danish officials who process similar data slightly differently estimate that infection is 36 percent more in their country, although they say their numbers are still so small that estimates may be inaccurate.
Concerned Danish leaders tried to explain to their own people why they needed to stay in lockdown, while the general metrics are good enough to indicate that the country should have started reopening its doors weeks ago.
In a long time Facebook share Last week, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told people to imagine sitting in the top row of Copenhagen’s Barken Stadium, a football stadium that seats 38,000. Dripping faucet fills, one drop per minute, two drops per second, four drops per third. At that rate, Frederiksen said, the park will be filled in 44 minutes. But she said she would look nearly empty for the first 42 minutes.
“The important point is that one only discovers that the water has risen too late,” she wrote.
Danish officials say they are at this point in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible before the British alternative takes hold. They say vaccinations will be the key to stopping the worst effect of its spread. But vaccines may not come fast enough: Under current plans, they only expect to be able to start administering vaccines on a large enough scale to bend the transition curve in April, and production delays may slow those plans even more.
Frederiksen joined several other EU leaders at a virtual summit on Thursday in urging the European Medicines Agency, which has approved vaccines across the 27-nation bloc, to speed up its operations. The agency is reviewing the AstraZeneca vaccine – already authorized in the UK – for potential introduction in mid-February. AstraZeneca on Friday warned the European Union that it will not be able to offer as many doses as the bloc expected in the first quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, Copenhagen’s bike lanes were bustling with quietness as people worked from home. Unnecessary stores are closed. Kindergarten is one of the few sectors still open – and a potential target for further emphasis.
“It’s a strange silence before the war starts,” said Michael Dahl, chief medical officer at Odense University Hospital, the largest hospital in southern Denmark.
His hospital is opening new coronavirus wards and is confident that there will be enough beds for even an increasing number of patients.
But he fears contagion among staff and their families may overwhelm his preparation efforts.
“If the mutation was highly contagious, we would end up with bigger problems with challenging employees,” he said.
The Birnbaum Report from Riga, Latvia and Celso Sorensen in Copenhagen.