Countries with high vaccination rates believed they had survived the worst. Denmark says the toughest month of the pandemic has just begun.


Denmark, Copenhagen-In the world’s most rigorous tracking of the epidemic of coronavirus variants, signals have never been more of a concern. Omicron positivity doubles almost every two days. The country is setting daily case records one after another. The lab analyzing positive tests recently added an overnight shift to keep pace.

And scientists say the surge has just begun.

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As Omicron advances a new phase of the pandemic, many are calling on Denmark, especially government agencies dedicated to testing, monitoring and modeling, to warn them of what to expect.

This new answer is disastrous, even in this highly vaccinated wealthy Nordic country. For all the defenses built last year, the virus is getting out of control, and scientists here expect similar patterns in much of the world.

“Next month will be the most difficult time of the pandemic,” said Tyra Grove Klaus, chief epidemiologist at the Statens Serum Insect of Denmark, a campus of brick buildings along the canal.

Since the advent of Omicron in November, this variant has the potential to cause less severe illnesses than the competing Delta version, making this wave more manageable and making covid-19 endemic. May be useful for. But Denmark’s predictions show that the waves are completely flooding the country, so even if tensions ease, it will have an unprecedented blow.

Scientists warn that Omicron’s knowledge remains inaccurate. Danish virus modelers have many scenarios, not just one. But even in a half-hearted scenario, Danish hospitals will soon face a daily flow of patients several times beyond what they have seen before.

“This will overwhelm the hospital,” said Globe Klaus. “I have no doubt about it.”

She tried to explain why Omicron ended up in such a setback in the fight against the pandemic in her office building in collaboration with a six-person modeling team. She likened the virus to a flood and explained how the vaccine worked like two barriers to the health system under previous variants. One barrier was due to the ability of the vaccine to reduce the likelihood of infection and keep the spread of the infection low. Another barrier was due to severe illness and a reduced chance of death. There were some holes in both barriers, but together they ensured that the floods did not get too high.

But now she said the first barrier was largely removed. Danish data show that two doses are as vulnerable to Omicron infection as unvaccinated individuals. Boosted people have better protection-a sign of hope-but in the meantime, about three of the four Danes have not yet received a third dose, and most of the country. Is vulnerable.

Due to its dynamics and its much more contagious variants than last winter’s, the Danish demographics are often old and distorted, so Danish people are dramatically more likely to come into contact with the virus. It is getting higher. West. The water will now flow through the hole in the second wall.

With her double-panel computer, Globe Klaus elicited the latest predictions from the institute. It was still being adjusted before scientists opened it to the public on Saturday. The possibilities are wide, but the best scenario (which is unlikely) shows daily hospitalizations that coincide with last year’s peak. In most other scenarios, numbers soar into the stratosphere.

No more than 1,000 covid-19 cases have ever occurred in Danish hospitals, peaking from last winter. However, by early January, in moderate scenarios, hospitals may see 500 new covid patients arriving daily. If Omicron’s infectivity becomes high-end and it proves to be as severe as Delta and has a strong ability to evade vaccines, hospitalizations per day can reach 800.

And then there is the problem of infectious diseases. Prior to this wave, Denmark had never seen more than 5,000 cases a day. On Friday, over 11,000 new cases were recorded. Within a week, in moderate scenarios, the number of cases can reach 27,000. And in January? Laboratory estimates are even higher off the Y-axis.

In the midst of a surge, Denmark has shortened bar and restaurant hours this month, urged people to work from home, and closed schools seven days before their Christmas holidays. Grove Krause warned that forecasts did not take into account further government moves, including the closure of cinemas and theaters announced on Friday. But even a complete blockade “will not stop this from going out of control,” she said.


Danish predictions are taken seriously around the world as they are notified by a comprehensive coronavirus monitoring system specially designed for these moments when the nature of the virus is changing rapidly.

The system starts with testing. Denmark wipes more people with a cotton swab than most other countries on the planet. The per capita pace is seven times faster than in the United States. The test, which is free for both citizens and travelers, then arrives at the Statens Serum Insect, a sister facility on the other side of the country. Lab technicians will identify positives within 24 hours. And by the next day, they know which variant is responsible for all cases.

Next, some of the positives are fully sequenced, providing an additional layer of insight. This not only allows researchers to identify mutations, but also potentially understands who has infected them.

“We see things in near real time,” said Arieh Cohen, Head of Development at the lab, which processes test results and performs initial variant analysis.

So far, the data show that hospitalization rates are slightly lower for Omicron than for Delta. However, as hospitalization lags behind the infection and the Omicron infection has only recently occurred, scientists say the results will be more meaningful. several weeks.

Scientists have also identified how Omicron was sown nationwide, first from travelers from Africa and then through several Super Spreader events. A just-published paper from the institute and other researchers described a Christmas party attended by about 150 people. Most were vaccinated. Still, 71 was tested positive for Omicron.

The first Omicron case in Denmark is disproportionately concentrated in people in their twenties. This age group usually presents with mild symptoms and may miss infections in countries with few tests. Some scientists at the institute believe that the Danish wave is a week or two ahead of other Western nations. However, others say that many countries may already be experiencing the same pattern, with young people (most likely traveling and socializing) spreading the jump-start community.

“Denmark may be capturing the spread that other countries lack,” said Mark Steger, a team analyzing genomic data.

Scientists here say that fine-grained research makes sense only if knowledge provides a way to protect the country-and it was in the past. A year ago, when the alpha variant was in place, Denmark quickly tightened its blockade and drastically slowed the wave.

This time, the government has not implemented a comprehensive blockade. But it tried to respond to new science. Still, spreads are moving fast. In the early days of Omicron, Denmark not only tried to close the contacts, but also quarantined the contacts in the contacts. The strategy was abandoned after nine days as it became unacceptable.

At the Statens Serum Insect of Denmark, many scientists are fed up with pre-Omicron eras, looking back at another era when pandemics were manageable and understandable. In the past few weeks alone, the test lab has hired 100 new people. I bought 20 new PCR machines. It began to immerse itself in a spare stockpile of plastic laboratory parts and began to fight other nations for supply. The Institute’s Christmas party scheduled for last week has been cancelled.

Scientists say they’re worried about what they’re seeing-and again a little awe-winning the turf war against the incredibly fitting virus, Delta. As of Monday (latest day with full public data), Omicron accounted for 26.8% of cases. A week ago, Omicron’s share was 4.9%.

“It’s moving very fast,” Cohen said, more swabs arrived in the lab below his upstairs office. He said his primary concern was to keep things moving. He called himself a “laboratory man” and said it was for the epidemiologist to think about the big picture. But he took the plunge, “I have to have a fatalistic opinion. It means that we all intend to get this.”


So far, Omicron’s full results are still on the horizon-a few weeks ahead, computer screens, or part of a government warning. In Britain, the only country comparable to Danish variant surveillance, Prime Minister Boris Johnson talked about the “tsunami” in the next incident. This variant is already dominant in London, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Europe has stated that it is likely to dominate across the continent in January or February. The United States is also preparing for a big wave and hospital overwhelming as early as next month.

However, the model can only be predicted for a few weeks, and after the Omicron wave reaches its peak and dissipates, anything beyond that is left to scientific imagination.

At the Statens Serum Insect, the imagination is Anders Fomsgaard, one of Denmark’s most renowned virologists. He is a curly saxophone lover. His colleagues call him Ideaman. And he works in a crouching yellow building where researchers are nurturing Omicron culture.

He greeted the visitor at the entrance under a neon light shaped like a geometric fragment. I explained that this represents HIV.

“Another fad,” he said. “By the way, it’s still going on.”

Perhaps the origin of Omicron is related to HIV, he said. The virus may have come from an immunocompromised person, whose body was unable to kill the virus and instead grew and altered the virus. He said that even in Danish hospitals, some people have been infected with the coronavirus for seven or eight months. Changes are being monitored in Denmark. In most places this is not the case.

“This could be one way to create this resistant virus,” he said.

He said his goal was to help humanity ultimately get ahead of covid. And to that end, he leads all kinds of experiments. Among them is research on vaccines that target T cells. Such vaccines cannot prevent infection, but the goal is to stop the disease. The advantage is to target the portion of the coronavirus that appears to be unmutated.

“We are always on the lookout,” he said. “We are late. We are five steps behind.”

He thinks it’s cruel next month, but what about after that? It’s hard to say. Infected people, and many, can escape by increasing protection-pushing the coronavirus into something less threatening. But he also said that it is impossible to completely eradicate the virus. Maybe it can jump into a rodent. Then it will probably return to humans and be reshaped. He describes the coronavirus as a “master mutator,” and it is clear that vaccination has pushed humans into the corners where the virus can be weakened or altered.

“It could be even weaker at the other end,” Fomguard said. “But it’s a risky business. It may hit another jackpot mutation.”

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