A person dressed as a Santa Claus meets with children while sitting in a “Santa Claus bubble” as he opens Christmas season at Aalborg Zoo, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Aalborg, Denmark November 13, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

COPENHAGEN – Denmark took a first tentative step towards reopening amid the coronavirus crisis when Minister for Health and Senior Citizens Magnus Heunicke announced at a press conference on Monday that from Feb. 8 the country’s youngest students would be heading back to school.

“Our goal with the massive closure was to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections and give breathing space to our hospitals. We can now state that it has succeeded. Therefore we can reopen our schools for students in first to fourth grade,” Heunicke said.

All other students will continue to be subject to the coronavirus restrictions, which have been in place since Dec. 12, 2020.

“This is the precondition for us to be able to maintain control of the epidemic,” he said.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced last Thursday the extension of the restrictions until Feb. 28, and said that it was important to reopen schools for the youngest children before that date.

The decision is based upon the recommendation of the Statens Serum Institut (SSI).

Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 infections continues to fall in Denmark but the new and more contagious coronavirus variant known as B117 is spreading fast across the country.

According to the SSI, Denmark registered 488 new COVID-19 infections and a further 20 deaths in the past 24 hours. To date, the country has reported 198,960 COVID-19 cases and 2,145 deaths.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in many European countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 237 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 63 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Jan. 29.