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People at higher risk

Who is at higher risk?

For people with some illnesses and conditions, there is a higher risk of a serious course of COVID-19 – e.g. requiring hospitalisation and possibly intensive care.

The Danish Health Authority has revised its recommendations for people at higher risk based on studies of single cases as well as international recommendations from organisations such as WHO and ECDC and from a selection of countries. These recommendations have been supplemented by professional advice from medical companies. You can read more in Danish in the report Personer med øget risiko ved COVID-19 – Fagligt grundlag. 

For some diseases and conditions, it is well documented that there is a significantly higher risk of a serious course of the disease. For others, there is less evidence of a higher risk from COVID-19, but we know from other types of infections that the risk is higher. We, therefore, conclude that these diseases and conditions may also increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Finally, there are conditions where there is no evidence of a higher risk from COVID-19, but where, based on the precautionary principle, we assume that there may be a higher risk.

The term people at higher risk covers all the following diseases and conditions.

People at higher risk

Very elderly people

The risk for the elderly should not be based entirely on age. Your risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 depends largely on how fit and healthy you are, how well you are functioning and the extent of your physical ability and activity – e.g. walking, cycling or the like. Whether you can manage in your own home is also significant.

All these factors have to be taken into account and are more significant than your actual age. The higher risk associated with age is probably more due to the fact that the elderly are subject to chronic diseases and aggravation of already existing conditions more than the accumulation of years itself/the increase in age itself. A healthy 75-year-old with no chronic illnesses, for example, is less likely to become severely ill than a 62-year-old with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Likewise, a physically active 79-year-old, who usually manages perfectly well on his/her own, is expected to be less likely of becoming severely ill from COVID-19 than a 74-year-old with lung disease and limited physical ability.

If you are elderly and in doubt, it is important that you talk to your general practitioner and have the doctor make a specific and individual assessment of your situation.

Considering the above-mentioned factors, it is well documented that the following people are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19:

  • People over 70 years of age – and particularly those over 80
  • People over the age of 65 who are suffering from one or more chronic diseases.

Residents in nursing homes

Residents in nursing homes are more likely to be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 due to a combination of advanced years, typically one or more chronic illnesses as well as reduced function and activity levels.

Overweight people

Whether – or to what extend – you are at risk if you are overweight depends to some degree on whether you are also suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, for example.

It is well documented that the following people are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19:

  • severely obese people with a BMI of over 35
  • severely obese people with a BMI of over 30 and concomitant chronic disease(s)

People who suffer from certain illnesses or conditions

  • severe cardiovascular disease
  • severe lung disease
  • lung cancer and widespread (metastatic) cancer, regardless of cancer type
  • chronic kidney disease with renal impairment
  • chronic liver disease with complications
  • poorly managed diabetes, regardless of which type of diabetes – especially attention if the person is also severely overweight, has cardiovascular disease or a severe kidney disease
  • conditions where the individual is not eating much and has an affected general condition
  • muscular, neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases and conditions that reduce the individual’s ability to gather enough force to cough or rid the airways of mucus
  • advanced dementia, or mild to moderate cognitive impairment in someone who is elderly and has a comorbidity
  • diseases that cause reduced immune system
  • HIV positive with severe impairment of the immune system
  • Immunosuppressive therapy
  • transplants done within the last six months

Follow the link to see a specified list of diseases and conditions (appendix 3 in the report on page 44 (only in danish))

Some children with chronic illness

Some children with chronic disease or special conditions may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This typically applies to children who were also particularly well cared for, and who had special arrangements with the school or daycare centre, before the COVID-19 epidemic. These children have illnesses or conditions that are usually monitored by a hospital, and will receive individual assessment and counselling there.

For more information in Danish, please go to the Danish Paediatric Society

People of no fixed abode

Homelessness or low housing standards, little or no access to sanitary facilities, and difficulty keeping physical distance in shelters, etc. increase the risk of infection. Furthermore, people without permanent residence often have a chronic illness – especially infectious diseases such as hepatitis and tuberculosis, COPD, etc. The combination of a higher risk of infection and concomitant chronic diseases put homeless people at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 if they become infected.

Pregnant women

Pregnant women may be more susceptible to infections. However, pregnant women have the same disease pattern as the rest of the population, and we have not found that pregnant women are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 disease. Likewise, we have not seen that the foetus is a higher risk.mortality. The same has not been shown for the unborn child.

However, it has been documentat that some women admitted with COVID-19 in the third trimester are delivered by cesarean section prematurely, and that the baby is born before term with the associated risks.

Based on consideration for the unborn child, but also for the pregnant woman, The Danish Health Authority regards pregnant women as a risk group in relation to COVID-19.

Recommendations for people at higher risk

As with other infectious diseases that are widespread in society, such as colds and flu, it is impossible to completely eliminate the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus. However, you can significantly reduce the by following the general advice of The Danish Health Authority, thereby creating an environment which allows people at higher risk to participate if they follow this precautionary advice:

recommendations for people at higher risk

recommendations for relatives

COVID-19 is a new disease, although it is not fundamentally different from other infectious diseases. As a person at higher risk, you should take the normal precautions against infections that you normally would, perhaps on the advice of your general practitioner. This means that whatever you could do before the COVID-19 epidemic – e.g. go to work or look after your grandchildren – you can also to a large extent do now if you follow the precautionary advice.

If you were following doctor’s orders and taking special precautions before the COVID-19 epidemic – if you have a reduced immune system or cystic fibrosis, for example – please continue to follow your doctor’s advice. Based on an individual assessment by their doctor, some people at higher risk will probably need to take even more far-reaching precautions.

The recommendations are aimed at everyone who suffers from diseases or conditions that would put them at higher risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. This includes people who have only been included out of the precautionary principle. The older you are and/or the more serious chronic diseases you have, the more vigilantly you have adhere to the guidelines and recommendations. If you have any doubts, please get an overall risk assessment from your general practitioner or the doctor who treats you at the hospital.

Questions and answers

We have gathered a host of information about novel coronavirus/COVID-19 in our Frequently Asked Question’s segment (FAQ). Here you can find the answer to a range of other questions and keep up-to-date on all health-related recommendations on the novel coronavirus/COVID-19.

Go to FAQ


Several Danish authorities have set up hotlines to answer questions about coronavirus / COVID-19. Follow the link to see which of your questions the various hotlines are particularly well-equipped to answer.
Updated 14 JUL 2020