Danish Professor Wants to 'Let Omicron Loose' Among Vaccinated, Politicians Wary
While vaccine researcher and Copenhagen University Professor Ole Frilev Olesen has maintained that the Omicron strain would push the more dangerous Delta off the playing field, the Danish authorities are not ready to lift restrictions for the vaccinated, citing an increase in hospitalisations amid a record wave of infections.
Danish vaccine researcher Ole Frilev Olesen, professor of molecular biology at the University of Copenhagen, has called to ease the COVID-19 restrictions introduced to counter the Omicron strain and instead focus on limiting the spread in more vulnerable groups.
In his article called "Let Omicron Loose" published
by the newspaper Berlingske
, he ventured that maintaining the current level of restrictions is unreasonable. According to the professor, the available data, both domestic and foreign, indicate that Omicron is less dangerous compared to the Delta strain, which used to be the dominant variant.
"Instead of painting with the broad brush, as you do now with general restrictions on the population, you should save the many resources and focus on the weaker groups – those who, as you know, are at risk of becoming hospitalised", Ole Frilev Olesen argued
According to Frilev Olesen, a larger spread of Omicron would have certain benefits.
"It is a clear advantage if we can get the Omicron variant to shove the more dangerous Delta off the field. It would generally give a much milder disease picture", he maintained, calling to lift the restrictions for those who have had three vaccine shots.
While admitting that a larger infection spread in society will be associated with an even greater risk for vulnerable groups, Ole Frilev Olesen maintained that the at-risk groups were "well-identified" and could be monitored individually.
State Serum Institute (SSI) academic director Tyra Grove Krause said that Omicron yields only half as many hospital admissions compared with Delta. Yet, in stark contrast to Frilev Olesen, who suggested that the Danish healthcare system has plenty of unused capacity, she emphasised that Omicron is contagious enough to put pressure on the nation's healthcare system.
The ruling Social Democrats health spokesman Rasmus Horn Langhoff was not impressed by the proposal to lift the restrictions for the vaccinated as well, calling it overly optimistic.
"There is every reason for optimism, but I think we should wait with jubilant optimism. We are still in a critical phase", Horn Langhoff told TV2. Citing previous prognoses, he argued that the situation will "get worse before it gets better" and called on his compatriots to "hold on".
According to virologist Allan Randrup Thomsen, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, the restrictions are likely to last until spring.
Earlier this week, the Health Ministry published an assessment from the Epidemic Commission, which found the current restrictions necessary and proportionate. The commission stressed, among other things, that the epidemic is still growing while hospitalisation rates are up and the entire scope of health consequences of the Omicron strain remain uncertain.
At the same time, the SSI expects the infection rate to increase towards the end of January, peaking at 55,000 daily cases. As of now, Denmark is engulfed in a record wave, with daily infections steadily over 20,000, exceeding Russia's, despite having a population 24 times smaller. The recent daily count is 28,283 in Denmark versus 15,772 in Russia.