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11 August 2020

Denmark: Professor says culture is not the reason migrants are more affected by COVID-19


In Denmark, as in most other countries, ethnic minorities are more vulnerable to COVID-19. In August, half of the cases in a new outbreak in Aarhus, the country’s second largest city, occurred within the city's Somali population.

The cause of the outbreak, the mayor of Aarhus has claimed, was determined to have been an Eid event and a funeral, both attended by many Somalis. The city council launched as a result a campaign aimed specifically at the Somali minority, and there were accounts of Somali children being turned away from their day care centres as a result.

Two politicians from extreme right parties Nye Borgerlige and Dansk Folkeparti, as well as one from the ruling Social Democrats party, immediately claimed on their social media platforms that this outbreak was the consequence of allowing foreigners to live in Denmark, and that Somali culture and an associated lack of respect were to blame for the virus spreading. One post even demanded a curfew for residential areas where there are many migrants.

Professor in medicine and immigrant health, Morten Sodemann, published a detailed response to the outcry on Danish news website, Raeson. He explained that the culture of immigrants has nothing to do with the increased risk of infection among ethnic minority groups; rather it is inequality in access to healthcare that is the problem.

Ethnic minorities tend more often to be employed on the front line, he wrote, where they are more at risk of infection and have fewer opportunities to work from home. They are more likely than ethnic Danes to be employed within the care sector, taxi businesses, shops, restaurants, homes for the elderly and so on, and they tend to live in homes of more people per square metre.

Further, the Danish state has communicated little advice or information in languages other than Danish, compared to neighbouring countries where information has been made available in multiple languages. For months, the only translations were produced by volunteers and NGOs.

Sodemann said: ‘we love to blame the foreigners, the poor and the less educated for epidemics. But that is neither fair nor correct.’


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Posted by
Michala Clante Bendixen
Country Coordinator

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