Is coughing a crime? Danish court hears appeal against pandemic-linked
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[February 13, 2021]
By Nikolaj Skydsgaard
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark's top court
will on Thursday begin an appeal hearing in which it will be asked to
decide if coughing at someone while shouting "corona" constitutes
The 20-year-old defendant in the case was arrested in March, when the
country was under a full coronavirus lockdown, after subjecting police
to what prosecutors called the "ruthless and thoughtless" actions during
a routine traffic stop. He subsequently tested negative for COVID-19.
First acquitted in a local court, he was later convicted of the offence
at Denmark's Western High Court and, at his Supreme Court appeal against
that conviction, prosecutors are seeking jail term of three to five
Other similar incidents of coughing directed at police were reported in
Denmark last year, in part a reflection of simmering public discontent
in some quarters against the government's handling of the COVID-19
The government, which says it follows a "precautionary principle" in
managing the virus, enjoyed almost unequivocal public support for swift
action against COVID-19 early last year.
But opposition parties have begun to question what some consider an
overly cautious approach as infection rates fall, and 30% of Danes now
think the government's measures are too far-reaching, according to a
recent Aarhus University study.
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Demonstrators hold a banner reading "Black-clad resistance" during a
protest by a group called Men in Black against COVID-19 restrictions
in Copenhagen, Denmark January 23, 2021. Picture taken January 23,
2021. Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix via REUTERS
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen this week said lifting the lockdown
required "complete epidemic control".
In recent months, thousands have taken to the streets in protests,
some violent, calling for authorities to ease lockdown curbs which
they say limit their freedom and are crippling businesses.
Virologists, health authorities and the government have defended the
current curbs - which have locked down most of the county apart from
essential shops - as vital to contain more infectious coronavirus
variants, notably ones first identified in Britain and South Africa,
that have reached Denmark.
Just 470 COVID-19 cases were registered in the last 24 hours, down
from thousands of daily infections late last year, but the share of
people infected with the British variant is on the rise.
Denmark has in total registered just over 200,000 coronavirus
infections, with 2,269 related deaths.
The Supreme Court is expected to give its verdict in the coughing
case on Feb. 18.
(Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; editing by John Stonestreet)
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