Had it been passed, the law would have allowed the government to conduct forced physical exams and mandate isolation. It was, however, the part about police-directed forced vaccinations that caused the biggest uproar resulting in the protests that eventually saw the law being dropped. (Related: University of California being sued over its mandatory flu vaccine policy.)
Denmark’s “epidemic law” was set to replace an emergency law that was passed in the spring and expired on Nov. 13. That law gave the government extended powers to intervene in society to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to enforcing quarantine measures, the temporary law gives authorities the power to prohibit access to supermarkets, shops, public institutions and even public and private nursing homes and hospitals. It also gave them the authority to impose restrictions on access to public transport.
The government has made full use of the existing law. In October, it used it to enhance national restrictions, placing limits on public assembly and mandating the use of face masks. More recently, it used it to enforce a partial lockdown of North Jutland after a mutated version of the coronavirus was found in mink farms in the region.
That emergency law, however, is now up for replacement with a new more permanent law. The new “epidemic law” would have been its replacement; however, it came with several provisions – in addition to the forced vaccinations – that raised eyebrows.
It would have allowed the government to force people infected with dangerous diseases to be forcibly given medical examinations, hospitalized and placed in isolation. In the Danish Health Authority would have also been given the power to define groups who must be vaccinated to contain and eliminate the disease.
More importantly, it would have allowed the government to call on the police to coerce people to be tested or vaccinated under threat of detainment.
Even before the new law was dropped, many had in Denmark had voiced their concerns about how it was giving the government too much power over healthcare.
“We think these are regulations that go too far and ought to be changed,” Camilla Rathcke, head of the Danish Medical Association, told Danish news outlet DR. Rathcke added that such power in the hands of the government could feel as though it was “overstepping boundaries” for individual patients.
The association has stated that it believes that mandatory vaccinations should be “an absolute last resort,” expressing concern that the law was infringing on patient’s legal rights.
Further criticism of the proposed law was on how it could force businesses and organizations to hand over information on staff and members to authorities. According to the Danish Council of Ethics, that would have promoted a culture of surveillance which “in no way benefits trust in society.”
Perhaps the biggest area of concern was how the new law would have allowed decisions to be made based on a “principle of caution.” The same is already allowed under the existing emergency law, allowing authorities to make decisions without conclusive scientific evidence.
Clearly, these concerns resonated with the Danish public. For nine days, protesters waged public protests outside the halls of the Folketing – Denmark’s parliament – leading to it eventually being dropped.
With the law dropped, the question now is how will the Danish government move forward. Will authorities try to extend the existing emergency law or will it try to force a new one?
Follow Pandemic.news for more on how other countries are resorting to drastic measures to deal with the coronavirus.