COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Denmark's prime minister said Friday that his government is moving to close theaters, cinemas, concert halls, amusement parks, museums and art galleries as part of new restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said the proposed measures also would require stores smaller than 2,000 square meters (21,528 square feet) and restaurants to limit their number of customers. Restaurants would have to serve their last meals and alcoholic beverages at 10 p.m. and close at 11 p.m.
The Danish government is advising residents to limit social contacts over the Christmas holidays and urged public and private companies to have employees work from home where possible.
“We are not talking about shutting down the whole country as we did last year,” Frederiksen said. "Our goal is still to keep as large sections of society open as possible. We need to curb activity. We all need to limit our social contacts."
The partial shutdown order requires parliamentary approval. Lawmakers on the 21-member Epidemic Committee were scheduled to meet Friday afternoon.
The new variant “spreads at lightning speed. It would be irresponsible not to recommend new restrictions,” Soeren Brostroem, head of the Danish Health Authority, said.
Lars Sandahl Sorensen, head of the Confederation of Danish Industry, representing approximately 18,000 companies in Denmark, said the move “was not on anyone’s wish list. Not at all. It will unfortunately be a sad Christmas for many.”
Denmark currently requires face masks on public transportation and in shops. The government wants to extend the mask mandate to include educational institutions and places of worship.
Like many other European countries, Denmark is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, with health authorities saying the number of infections and hospitalizations has risen faster than expected.
The country reported 9,999 new cases on Thursday, and the number was above 11,000 on Friday, the prime minister said.
Last year, Denmark was one of the first European countries to close schools because of the pandemic, and the government sent home all public employees without critical functions. The government also barred gatherings of more than 100 people.
In Finland, the Institute for Health and Welfare on Friday reintroduced a recommendation for people to use face masks in public spaces, including on public transportation. It came into force Friday and applies to everyone 12 and older.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press