On March 14, Denmark closed its borders to curb the spread of the new corona virus. The decision was political and was not based on the recommendations of the health authorities. “Historically, it has proved completely pointless,” commented Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
While the boundaries are closed to the Swedes, the Danes can travel freely back and forth to Sweden.
In Malmö it sits Danish nurse Kathrine Hornebo, waiting for her husband outside a clothing store in the Emporia shopping center.
Together with the two sons, the couple has traveled to Malmö during the day for a few hours of shopping and “hygge”.
– We have been largely imprisoned in recent months, it’s so nice to just come out and see other people, she says.
New figures from the Öresund Bridge Consortium show that the Danish leisure traffic to Sweden has tripled compared to what it looked like at the time of the border closure week 12, and in recent weeks the reports have been tight enough about Danes at Skåne golf courses, taverns and shopping centers.
On Sunday night, after the long weekend, came the culmination. At that time, a six to seven kilometer long queue in the direction of Denmark with up to two hours of waiting at the border crossing at Pepparholm was ringing, the Öresund Bridge’s traffic manager reported.
Kathrine Hornebo thinks the border closure is “overkill”.
– For the spread of infection, it is much more important with hand hygiene and to keep distance. The Danish politicians have made a decision that does not rest on medical grounds, she says.
She feels strange that Swedes cannot travel to Denmark.
– I think the government can open up to Sweden now. In Skåne, you also have fewer infected and dead than in Copenhagen, we are not the least afraid to go here.
A few miles away, in Ljunghusen, Vellinge municipality, Johnny Lindhard comes wandering along the water at the 18th hole at the local golf club. He is part of a company of four Danish couples who have spent the last six days in Skåne to hang out and play golf.
He is also critical of his government’s position on the issue of borders.
– We all are. It is not right that we can go over to Sweden while you cannot come to Denmark. It really makes the whole strategy meaningless. Especially since the commuting to Denmark has continued with Swedes in healthcare and retail in Copenhagen and Helsingör, he says.
Many people are upset in Skåne over the Danes’ unwillingness to open the border to Sweden. On July 1, the Öresund Bridge will be twenty years old and now Scanian politicians and business representatives believe that the closure runs counter to the integration idea that lay behind the building.
– Instead of deepening cooperation, there is a risk that the region will crack and move in the opposite direction, says Lund Municipal Councilor Philip Sandberg (L).
The other week he wrote an open letter to the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen (S) in which he pointed out the risk of a strengthened recession, higher unemployment and reduced competitiveness.
– There is total lack of regional consideration in the debate. Region Skåne has half as many deaths in covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants as the Capital Region of Denmark. To say then that as a reason for continued closed borders it is because of the spread of infection in Sweden, it is not logical, says Philip Sandberg.
In view of the overall development, Denmark has had significantly fewer deaths than Sweden. But the spread of infection in Sweden differs greatly. While Stockholm has many infected and dead, Region Skåne has so far fared better compared to other Swedish regions – and neighboring Danish.
In mid-May had Region Skåne 8 covid-19-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In the Capital Region, there were almost 17 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, while in Zealand the figure was just under 13.
Niels Paarup-Petersen, a center-party parliamentary member with Danish bravado, believes that the trend of Skåne-holidaying Danes is proof of “the Danish hypocrisy”.
– It is completely shit that a lot of Danes travel to Sweden and do things they must not do at home. But if there is a scandal to Copenhagen, well then the attitude is that all Danes will die.
– It is not fact-based, it is pure hypocrisy – in terms of the development, it is the Danes who are infected with the Scania, not the other way around, he says.
On Monday, some relief was introduced in the Danish border checks for residents in the Nordic neighboring countries and Germany. This means, among other things, that business travelers and persons with a partner or summer residence in Denmark are allowed entry (however, the right to buy a holiday home in Denmark has only one who is resident or has been resident in the country for at least five years).
By May 29 it should the Danish government submit a plan for how the country should open up for the tourist season.
Several of the country’s opposition parties demand that the border with Sweden remain closed – while welcoming German and Norwegian holidaymakers.
“If opening the border with Sweden is not justifiable for health, the Swedes can be where they are, and the Germans can come up,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, leader of the largest opposition party Venstre, recently told Danmarks Radio.
Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, Danish social democrat and chairman of the Capital Region, disagrees. She thinks the discussion is “rogue” and “absurd”.
– Sweden has about the same low infection pressure as Norway and Germany, although the strategies differ slightly. Now that Danish society has reopened, it is completely incomprehensible why the Scans cannot go to the Danish side and spend money on restaurants and hotels.
– We are a common region and in Copenhagen we need both the Swedish workforce and the tourists, she says.
In the coastal town of Køge, a few miles south of Copenhagen, the recreational fishermen stand in a row along the stone pier.
Karsten Larsen weaves in the fishing line and looks out over a mirror-blank Öresund. He says that he belongs to a risk group, he will soon be 70 and recently an old schoolmate passed away in the suites of covid-19.
– Therefore, my opinion is definite. Denmark must keep the border with Sweden closed! Your death toll is alarming and if I were Swedish I would have been afraid of my country’s strategy.
Karsten Larsen has heard on the news that Sweden has had one of the highest death rates in the world in terms of population over the past week. So has Peter Skaarup, the right-wing populist party of the Danish People’s Party in the Folketing.
– Sweden has chosen a completely different strategy to combat covid-19 and we are concerned that the spread is so much greater there than in Denmark and other neighboring countries.
– We like Sweden. But we have to eat the elephant in small pieces. If we are to get control of the situation, we need to be careful about opening up to Sweden right now, he says.
In a villa garden a couple miles away from the recreational anglers, Rikke Dahl prepares her daughter’s birthday party. The gravel corridor is raked, the red and white flags hung at the entrance.
– We still can’t have more than ten people gathering, so it’s only the grandparents who come, she says, and tells of a colleague who went to his holiday home in Skåne Båstad the day before.
– We were kidding and said she shouldn’t come back. I myself would not go to Sweden now. Not because of the risk of infection, it’s more that it feels unfair when the Swedes can’t go here, she says.
At the border inspection on the Swedish side of the Öresund Bridge, the passport controller angles to a halt. He throws a goat’s eye at our passports and suggests that the morning has been hectic.
Many Danish-registered cars that have entered Swedish soil?
– Copious amounts. There may not be many Danes left in Denmark now, he says.
On March 14, Denmark closed its borders to stop the spread of the new corona virus. During this period, only foreign citizens with valid reasons, such as work, were allowed to cross the border.
May 25 was introduced certain easing which means, among other things, that business travelers and people with leisure accommodation are entitled to entry.
By May 29, the Danish government will present a plan to open for summer tourism.
Several Danish opposition parties want the border to be opened to Germans and Norwegians, but not to Swedes, with reference to the spread of infection in Sweden.
So far, Skåne has had lower spread of infection and death rate per capita than Copenhagen and Zealand. Several Scanian politicians and business representatives want this to be taken into account in the border discussions and require that Denmark be opened to the Swedes at the same time as to other countries.
During the entire Corona crisis, the Swedish borders have been open to EU citizens.