Empty streets in the heart on Copenhagen during virus lockdown
On Wednesday the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced extraordinary measures to contain the coronavirus in Denmark, which had grown ten-fold in 3 days. Specifically, she asked every person to take responsibility to not spread the virus. “We have to stand together by keeping our distance,” she declared.
Daycare centers, schools, educational institutions, cultural institutions, libraries, and leisure facilities are closed for two weeks (and possibly longer). All private institutions, voluntary associations, and religious communities are strongly encouraged to do the same. All public servants who do not perform critical functions are sent home. Private employers are strongly encouraged to allow employees to work from home, take leave or vacation. Those who can’t work from home: health care professionals, police and people who work with the socially vulnerable are expected to be on duty. The expectation is that the measures will prevent exceeding the healthcare system’s capacity.
The objective is to eliminate activities where infection can spread to but minimize slowdown to the economy, notably to make “changes in the public sector so that the private sector can continue in the best possible way for as long as possible.” It is vital to ensure commerce and preserve the ability for people to shop in stores. Goods must be produced, transported and sold. Separately supermarket chains affirmed sufficient food stocks and readiness for ecommerce.
Parents and families are expected to work from home and care for their children themselves—not to rely on state supplied childcare—but rather relatives, friends, and neighbors. Danes are asked to limit their use of public transport, and are tickets are sold to enable empty seats around each passenger. Hospitals and nursing homes must restrict visitors. Gatherings of more than 1000 are not allowed, and gatherings of more than 100 indoors are discouraged. All nightclubs, discos, pubs, are closed. The Parliament is enacting emergency legislation to effect these changes.
Travel to Italy, China, South Korea, Austria, and other nations is discouraged, and the government may well adopt additional restrictions for entry into Denmark, such as a medical exam.
It is expected that businesses will lose revenues and some workers their jobs. The government will attempt to mitigate these outcomes. People are asked to prepare for difficult times to come and recognized that the government’s response will be imperfect.
Reflections of an American living abroad
I have lived in Denmark for a decade and see the response and relative calm as prudent and predictable for a small, relatively homogenous country with a tradition for cooperative multiparty government. Such measures wouldn’t be possible if the country did not have well-performing broadband networks, utilities (oil, gas, electricity, water), and other infrastructure. Indeed, these facilities have been developed from extensive private investment in a highly capitalist country with free enterprise. While the measures taken are hoped to reduce the spread of the disease, it’s also to ensure that the revenue engines of the Danish economy keep working: Mærsk shipping, Danske Bank financials, and Novo Nordisk pharmaceuticals.
That people can stay safe at home during the crisis and continue work, study, and get healthcare online—is a testament to the quality of broadband networks. I have described telecom policy in Denmark at length, its decentralization and deregulation. Indeed the Center-Left government dismantled the telecom regulator in 2011. The country was and is a leading digital nation.
The coronavirus crisis shows the limits of the administrative state as most public sector workers have been sent home, and the private sector is expected to make do and keep the money flowing in. What hasn’t ceased for a moment is the seamless running of many American technologies: broadband, the internet, platforms, and other digital services.
Crises make clear what is essential. It also shows how small and meaningless the European Union regulations on the internet are, incessant pop-ups reminding users that the EU is protecting their rights. Meanwhile the EU’s success to stem the crisis seems like little to nothing. Crisis management in this situation is delivered by the nation state’s elected officials and individuals in one’s circle—all working together online. Denmark may be on lockdown, but its economy keeps going in a large part American technology.
Here are some helpful links.