COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark, the first country outside Asia to ease its coronavirus lockdown, said on Thursday the spread of Covid-19 has not accelerated since the gradual loosening of restrictions began in mid-April.

The Nordic country began reopening day care centers and schools for children in first to fifth grade two weeks ago followed by hairdressers and other small businesses on April 20 after seeing number of infections and deaths decline.

“There are no signs that the COVID-19 epidemic is accelerating,” said the State Serum Institute, which is responsible for preparedness against infectious diseases.

The so-called ‘R rate’, which shows the average number of infections one person with the virus causes, has increased slightly in the past two weeks but remains below 1.0, it said.

Governments around the world want the ‘R rate’ to be below 1.0 – meaning each infected person transmits the virus to less then one other – before loosening their lockdowns.

Germany said on Tuesday that its ‘R rate’ had edged up back to 1.0 after a lockdown relaxation last week.

Denmark, which was one of the first in Europe to shut down, had 452 coronavirus-related deaths as of Thursday, while the number of hospitalizations has fallen steadily during April.

“There are no signs what so ever that the partial reopening has caused a bigger spread of infection,” said Christian Wejse, a scientist at the department of infectious diseases at Aarhus University.

“At least there is no indication that we are heading into another wave. That has been the concern, but I can’t see that at all,” he told Reuters.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday that the spread of the virus was “under control” and that she would present a plan for the next steps in the reopening before May 10.

“We are by no means home safe, but we have a really good starting point now to get the number of infected further down,” said Wejse.

(Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen, Stine Jacobsen and Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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