Photos of Danish children returning to school while staying six feet apart highlight the country's cautious approach to lifting its lockdown measures
Melissa WileyApr 18, 2020, 04:34 IST
While Denmark appears to have flattened the curve of new infections, only time will tell which country took the right approach, Lars Ostergaard, chief consultant and professor at the Department of Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark told the Associated Press. "No one has walked this path before, and only the aftermath will show who made the best decision," he said.
Compared to Italy and France, where residents face fines and jail time if they leave their houses for an unapproved reason, Denmark's coronavirus response has not been as strict. But the country's response is not as relaxed as neighboring Sweden, where restaurants, bars, and other gathering places remain open. Danes can still leave the house at will as long as they heed the ban on public gatherings.
Denmark announced its first lockdown measures on March 11 and was the second country in Europe to do so, following Italy's lead. Since then, most countries have followed suit.
Reopening the country "will probably be a bit like walking the tightrope," Frederiksen admitted. "If we stand still along the way we could fall, and if we go too fast it can go wrong."
Under usual circumstances, extended absence without a doctor's note can result in a family losing their child support benefits, but the Ministry of Children and Education has eased its policy for the time being.
One mother expressed her predicament in the Facebook group. "I have twins in 5th grade, and we are so unsure whether or not they should start Friday. Most people want them to stay home, but home education is difficult without help from the school," she wrote.
Some have decided to keep their children home, but have been told they must home school if they decide to do so. Only children who live with family members at high risk for infection are eligible to continue remote learning, according to government guidelines.
A growing number of Danish parents and caretakers are expressing their concerns about sending their children back to school due to fears of infection. Since April 6, more than 40,000 have joined a Facebook group called "My child should not be a guinea pig for COVID-19."
Restaurants and cafés also remain closed, and gatherings of 10 or more people are banned.
Denmark plans to lift restrictions gradually over the coming weeks, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen explained in a news conference on April 6. "If we open Denmark too quickly we risk that infections rise too sharply and then we have to close down again," she said.
While Denmark's youngest students are resuming in-person classes, high schools and universities remain closed through May 10.
... and others moved classes into gymnasiums.
Some teachers brought their lessons outside ...
Now, desks are placed six feet apart, and drop-off times are staggered due to social distancing guidelines still in place.
Students had been home since March 16 and returned to find that their schools weren't quite as they left them.
Denmark became the first country in Europe on coronavirus lockdown to reopen its daycare centers and primary schools after experiencing a decline in the rate of new infections.