Denmark gained international attention when it triumphantly abandoned its COVID-19 restrictions and scepticism over its ensuing deaths statistics spurred its infectious disease agency to go to great lengths to clarify the situation and correct what it argued was a misinterpretation.
Denmark’s State Serum Institute (SSI) has published reports and information to address claims broadly circulating on social media and elsewhere that the country is seeing an increased casualty rate due to COVID-19.
Among others, Harvard epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, who has close to 700,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted to reproach Denmark’s COVID-19 deaths statistics and the nation’s approach in general.
Eric Feigl-Ding didn’t mince his words as he ventured that the Danish politicians “lost their frigging minds” and were “gaslighting their own citizens”, as the country’s death rates “surged exponentially”.
In response, the SSI stressed that an increase in hospital patients who have COVID-19, and people who have or recently had the disease when they died, reflected the high level of transmission of the virus in the community, but not a higher level of sickness or death caused by it.
Many people who are currently in hospital and have tested positive for COVID-19 are not there because of the virus but for an unconnected reason, the SSI pointed out.
Similarly, because community transmission is currently at a high level, a person who died for reasons unrelated to COVID-19 is more likely to have had the disease within the last 30 days before death and is thus included in the national COVID death statistics.
SSI has also issued English-language reports on its website in an effort to clarify the country’s data and its interpretation, as well as posted a series of tweets addressing what it called “typical misinformation on Danish COVID-19 numbers”.
Since becoming the first EU nation to lift all the COVID-19 restrictions in the recent wave at the beginning of February, Denmark saw the number of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals increase markedly.
The registered number of deaths of people who died within 30 days after testing positive for COVID-19 spiked as well. For instance, on Thursday 17 February, 44 such deaths were registered.
The SSI, however, firmly maintains that the mortality rate in Denmark is not rising.
In a February report, the SSI said that the overwhelming majority of deaths occur in “persons with underlying diseases”.
“In these cases, COVID-19 will often have played an important part in the death, but the relative importance of COVID-19 and the other, underlying diseases is difficult to assess”, the SSI said.
To date, Denmark, a nation of 5.8 million, has seen 2.4 million COVID-19 cases with some 4,160 deaths.
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