Eight weeks ago, Denmark was among the first countries in Europe to go into COVID-19 lockdown. Late on a Wednesday evening while celebrating my husband’s birthday, our prime minister declared that the near future would be very different than the present. She delivered a crystal-clear message we will never forget and that we would never have imagined we would ever hear, one that no generations in Denmark had ever heard before. A virus had closed our borders and people rushed out to buy toilet paper while we were all quickly getting used to new expressions like social distancing, flattened curves and herd immunity.

We all know what happened around the world between then and now with billions of people in mental and financial distress, health care systems trying to cope and heart-breaking news updates about the number of people dying daily from COVID-19. In 2015 Bill Gates said that the world was not ready for the next outbreak, and unfortunately, he was right. But in many countries, we were ready to act quickly and do what was asked of each of us. We did that in Denmark.

Normality is not around the corner and epidemiologic calculations and predictions are manifold. After the total lockdown in Denmark we are now slowly, but safely, unlocking our everyday life again. Many of my friends and colleagues from around the world are curious to understand why we can lift the lockdown already. Well, first, we locked down very early on before the health crisis had escalated, and importantly we trusted the decisiveness of our government that what we were told to do was right. Trust may be the keyword here because in Denmark, social trust is amongst the highest in the world according to  European Social Survey. The point here is perhaps that it is easier for authorities in a country with high trust to make the population act according to guidelines than in areas with less trust in authorities. Our health care system miraculously quickly prepared itself for what was likely to come, but we have stayed well below the target curve throughout and after less than three weeks, we saw a decline in the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19, and it is still on the decline. In a recent survey, 70% of Danes felt that the challenges related to the pandemic have been handled well in Denmark. The transparent, and fact-based communication from authorities, although with some course corrections halfway, made us continue to trust that we are overall doing the right thing. Now that our nurseries, kindergartens and primary schools are reopened and office-based staff are gradually returning to work, including at our Danish AXON office, we are all eagerly waiting for the next steps in the reopening of Denmark.

Marked up squares in a Copenhagen park will ensure that max 10 people gather in each square to ensure the proper 4 m2 per person. One of many initiatives to provide practical guidance during the reopening. Source: https://jyllands-posten.dk/pictures/image/12115504/bi3rut/ALTERNATES/h-5_3/title-mangler

There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is long and narrow and there are some difficult months ahead of us all. The decisions our prime minister will now have to make when she attempts to satisfy all stakeholders in the further unlocking of Denmark as one of the first countries in Europe will be tough. We can’t guarantee all her steps will be the right ones or as well-received as the actions taken to date. None of this is easy, but we are making it work because we must and because we must have trust!

By Tina Hahn, Vice President, AXON Communications, Denmark