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On coronavirus lockdown in small town Denmark

After the lockdown in Ebeltoft, Denmark, roads are not much quieter than usual. (Amy Goodman/YJI)

Ebeltoft, DENMARK – The coronavirus. Even faster than the infection itself, worries, dismissals, and rumors have been spreading across the globe. Now, Denmark has put itself on ‘lockdown.’

We watched last week as ‘DANMARK LUKKET NED’ (Denmark locks down), was printed in bold upon our television. Infographics explained what will and won’t be affected, interspersed with clips of the prime minister’s address to the nation.

All schools, universities and educational institutions are closed. Libraries and public ‘cultural houses’ will also be closed.

Any events exceeding 100 people are banned. For those few unable to get childcare, schools will be open, but it is suggested that family and neighbors help each other. Non-critical government workers will be sent home, and those in the private sector are encouraged to take holiday or work from home.

If you see the words ‘LOCKDOWN’ shout at you on a headline, it may feel as if the apocalypse is upon us. In reality, we are far from it. This is a preventative measure to reduce the strain on the healthcare system, to keep the vulnerable safe, and to stop the virus from spreading.

We do not have the military in hazmat suits patrolling our streets, and there are no ‘restricted areas.’ No one in town is wearing face masks. Sensible caution is what is needed.

Denmark has been taking other measures to tackle the pandemic. On the edge of our second biggest city, Aarhus, we have a coronavirus drive-through center. It is there to diagnose the virus, without people entering hospitals and spreading the disease. While perhaps not as exciting as a McDonalds drive-thru, it could save lives.

Our town is quiet, but we are a quiet town anyway. The lockdown has seemed to make it even quieter, though. A few places are shut, others are empty.

Copenhagen, our capital, has had some mild panic buying, but here, our stores are normal. It is a far cry from what my friends and family have reported in England, where stockpiling toilet roll, for a virus that does not tend to affect your bowels, has become common practice.

A few days ago, a friend in Brussels told me Belgians are buying a lot of leeks.

On Saturday, the Danish borders closed. Danish citizens on holidays abroad are being asked to come home. They will need to self-quarantine for two weeks after arrival. Tourists are leaving. We are no longer just locked down, we are locked in.

Watching the second announcement with Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen explaining our new border situation, I am reminded of the stark differences in political responses between the two countries I belong to.

The Danish prime minister is slightly nervous, but calm. Her interactions with the Danish press are a contrast to the aggressive press conferences of the UK. The hostility that Brits have to their government, regardless of who is in charge, is absent.

Many Danes are angry at their government for not doing enough to help small businesses, but it is frustration, not hostility. Of course, Denmark is not a perfect LEGO utopia where everyone eats pastry and agrees, but there is definitely a different vibe. We are a small country, and there is certainly a feeling that everyone is helping each other.

Students may be rejoicing across the country about their new ‘two-week vacation’ and others may be mourning their now canceled holidays, but there are ramifications for our town.

Ebeltoft is populated heavily with elderly people, who are some of the most at risk for the fatal consequences of the virus.

The World Health Organization has accused governments of lack of action, and explained that the virus needs to be tackled aggressively for lives to be saved. This is important. Inconvenient maybe, but important.

We shouldn’t panic, neither dismiss it. Our town is populated heavily with people that the lockdown is designed to protect. With estimations that 70 percent of Europe is likely to be infected, it is only a matter time until the disease hits a little closer to our home.

Amy Goodman is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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