International Round-Up: High alert as coronavirus creeps near

No documented cases in Denmark yet

At the time of going to press, there had been no confirmed cases of coronavirus on Danish soil. A Danish national currently in hospital in Belgium has been cleared of having the virus.

Three more false alarms
The patient and ten other Danes were on a China to Denmark flight (a joint European operation with stopovers in France and Belgium) on February 2, and two others were placed in home quarantine for two weeks after landing at Roskilde Airport at 01:00 on the following day. On Tuesday they were given the all-clear.

All eleven were evacuated from the Hubei Province, where the virus originated at a fish market in the city of Wuhan in late 2019, and last week four others were also transported away from the ‘danger zone’ without incident.

Six other Danes are believed to still be in the Hubei Province.

Huge quarantined area
The evacuations were made possible after lengthy discussions with the Chinese authorities, who have been reluctant to let anyone leave what is effectively a huge quarantined zone containing around 11 million people.

Observers have compared the settlements to ghost towns.

The Danish Foreign Ministry sent a team out to the stricken province in late January, and permission was eventually granted, although the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s official standpoint would appear to be that nobody can leave.

Neighbourly cases
A week earlier, the Sundhedsstyrelsen health authority said it was well prepared to tackle the coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

However, this was before cases started popping up all over the world – and already there have been several false alarms in Denmark and nearby Malmö, along with confirmed cases in Germany (12), Sweden (1) and Norway/Finland (a Chinese tourist who visited both countries).

Two specialised departments have been set up at Hvidovre Hospital and Aarhus University Hospital.

All flights cancelled
SAS has cancelled all flights to Beijing and Shanghai until the end of the month and suspended sales until March 15.

Refunds and rebooking possibilities are offered to all affected passengers, but Hong Kong will be serviced as scheduled.

In related news, Danish Crown has closed its new meat-producing plant in China just six months after its opening.

Over a thousand dead
As of Wednesday, the virus has killed almost 500 people and infected over 24,000 more in 28 countries.

Most of the deaths have occurred in mainland China, but there have been fatalities in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Call it a Chinese cartoon crisis?
Who knows how many billions of kroner a decision by Jyllands-Posten to post an inflammatory cartoon on January 27 might end up costing Denmark in terms of lost revenue.

The Chinese Embassy in Denmark was outraged when it saw that the satirical drawer Niels Bo Bojesen had replaced the five stars on its country’s national flag with images of the Coronavirus.

And the reaction across social media, in the international media and politically has so far been pretty immense.

Boycotts and bullshit
Granted, nobody has set fire to a Danish embassy – like in early 2006, months after Jyllands-Posten published its infamous Mohammed Cartoons – but already Danish brands are feeling the brunt of being boycotted in China.

Additionally, like in 2005 when the reaction from the Arab World was initially muted, many are fanning the flames.

In China Daily a column claimed that a Danish merchant brought smallpox to the USA in 1634, leading to 95 percent of the ‘local Indians’ being wiped out.

With no apology coming from JP or government – PM Mette Frederiksen underlined it was the media’s right to exercise its freedom of speech – this latest cartoon crisis looks set to rumble on.

Perfick for pensioners
Denmark is the second best country to retire in, according to an index compiled by UK chairlift firm Handicare. Finland finished first, and the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Austria, Canada, Norway, New Zealand and Spain completed the top 10. The index assessed parameters such as the quality of healthcare, life expectancy, happiness, and the pension age.

Low asylum rate
Only 2,700 people sought asylum in Denmark in 2019, according to the Immigration Ministry. Down from 3,559 in 2018 and significantly fewer than the 21,316 who applied in 2015, it was the lowest rate since 2008. The approval rate was 57 percent – down from 85 percent in 2015, although it was not as low as 2017, when the rate was just 36 percent.

Seventh best nationality
The International Citizenship Index compiled by has ranked Denmark as the world’s seventh best nationality. The top six were Iceland, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands. Had parental leave not been included, Denmark would have finished joint top with Ireland. Only one non-European country made the top ten: New Zealand in tenth.

Least corrupt again
For the second year running, Denmark has finished top of the Corruption Perceptions Index, an annual assessment carried out by Transparency International of how corrupt a country’s public sector is. Tied in first was New Zealand, followed by Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and Singapore. However, Denmark has been steadily dropping points since 2015.

Healthiest in world
Copenhagen is the healthiest capital city in Europe, according to a study carried out by Finishing ahead of Vienna, Bern, Helsinki and Berlin, the Danish capital ranked second for quality of life, low CO2 emissions and numbers who walk or cycle to work, and third for the quality of its drinking water. It was also praised for spending 10.35 percent of its GDP on healthcare.

Latvian mother’s struggle
A Latvian citizen currently in custody in Denmark, accused of trying to abduct one of her two daughters from the South African home of her abusive husband, has been pleading for the re-adjudication of her extradition to South Africa – but neither the Latvian nor the Danish authorities have shown any interest in her case. On January 15 protests were held in both Latvia and Denmark in support of Kristīne Misāne.

Left-bloc anger
The government’s left-bloc allies have strongly criticised the hardline stance on Danish-born foreign fighters, which enables the authorities to access property without a warrant. In one case, the term ‘police state’ was used. Not only has the government ruled that the fighters and their children are unable to return to their homeland, but they are also effectively outlawing any contact with them.

Danish model concerns
The European Commission has said the introduction of its minimum wage for the EU will not affect Denmark. EC senior vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis promised collective agreements would “be allowed to continue”, but Danish MPs are sceptical. Some 21 out of the 27 EU member states have statutory national minimum wages. The Danish model covers about 80 percent of workers.