Coronavirus: Denmark lifts all restrictions, declares COVID-19 'no longer a critical threat'

Denmark is about to become one of the first countries to step into the post-COVID era, removing the last of its restrictions this week and declaring the pandemic "no longer a critical threat".

The Scandinavian nation boasts one of the world's most impressive COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, with nearly three-quarters of its residents (73.2 percent) fully immunised against the virus.

And with the vast majority of the population protected, the Danish government is pushing ahead with a plan to return as close as possible to how things were before the pandemic wreaked havoc on the world.

With the exception of ongoing border controls, all coronavirus restrictions will be dropped on Friday, September 10.

The government announced it would make the move late last month, declaring the virus no longer a 'critical threat' - a label that had provided the justification for all its regulations up until that point.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke had always said they would stop imposing regulations as soon as it was safe, and in his announcement he told Danes: "We are there now."

It's not like Denmark was really under heavy restrictions anyway. Their current regulations are similar to New Zealand's alert level 1 rules, with no masks required and citizens just needing to produce a Coronapas health pass, or prove vaccination or a negative test result, when they visit some public venues.

Denmark's seven-day average of daily cases (to September 7) was 600, but the country saw an average of just one death a day during this period despite the caseload.

While it's getting rid of its COVID-19 rules for now, the Danish government says it's aware of the risk of new variants emerging and Heunicke says they would "not hesitate to act quickly" if cases and deaths started spiking again.

"Even though we are in a good place right now, we are not out of the epidemic," Heunicke said.

The complete removal of COVID-19 restrictions is in stark contrast to New Zealand's elimination strategy, which last month saw us go into lockdown following the detection of a single community case - a move that was ridiculed in some quarters here and abroad.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the strategy, saying it is the best one for New Zealand while we're still vaccinating people.

"That single initial case had hundreds of cases around it. It's simply not correct to assume that we had one case here and that everything that's been done was because of one case," she said. 

"We literally had hundreds and you can see with the outbreak now, we're working very hard to ensure that it doesn't have a negative effect on people in the South Island."

In the last week, New Zealand's COVID-19 case numbers have been trending downwards. On Wednesday, 15 community cases were reported - the lowest daily figure since August 20, the third day of the Delta outbreak.