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Coronavirus in Norway: What’s the latest news and what precautions should you take?

Coronavirus in Norway: What's the latest news and what precautions should you take?
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Here's the latest news, information and advice about coronavirus in Norway. (Paywall Free)

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What's the latest news and numbers on coronavirus in Norway?

On Monday, Norway's justice minister Monika Mæland said that she was hiring extra police to help enforce quarantine rules at the same time the the country's prosecutions agency said that people could be hit with fines of 20,000 NOK for breaking quarantine.

On Sunday night Oslo University Hospital announced it planned to break quarantine rules to allow some of its staff to return to work.

The Norwegian Institute for Public Health (FHI) on Tuesday at noon reported 139 new confirmed cases of coronavirus in the 24 hours leading up to midnight on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,1308. Three patients have died and 50 are hospitalised with a suspected coronavirus infection.

According to the Worldometers website, Norway now has the second largest number of infected people per capita in the world, with 261 cases per million inhabitants, just behind Switzerland.

Here is an FHI bar chart showing the pandemic's daily development, with infections traced overseas in green, infections within country in purple, and those still being traced in blue. 

What are the latest steps from the Norwegian authorities

On Sunday night, Norway's government asked all Norwegians who have gone to their cabins in the countryside to return to Norway's cities to prevent rural hospitals being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. 

On Saturday, it asked all residents currently abroad to return home

Norway's government announced a financial package on Friday to help industries hit by measures to control the virus,  suspending fees and taxes for the airline industry, and saying it would pay all but the two first days of the salaries of employees temporarily laid off in a bid to improve companies' liquidity. 

In a press release accompanying the announcement, the government said it would also remove the three-day waiting period between the point at which companies stop paying employees' salaries and the time unemployment benefits begin, to help keep the income of those laid off stable.

The package followed a surprise rate cut on Thursday from Norges Bank, the country's central bank, which reduced its key interest rate to 1 percent from 1.5 percent. 

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg on Thursday afternoon announced that the country would close all schools, kindergartens, and universities to slow the spread of coronavirus, with the measure effective from 6pm on Thursday. 

The closures were part of a string of restrictions she described as “the most far-reaching measures we have ever had in peacetime in Norway”.

The measures announced include: 
  • Closure of all schools, kindergartens and universities.
  • A provision requiring primary schools and kindergartens to stay partially open in order to look after the children of key personnel in healthcare, transport and other critical social functions.  
  • Cultural events, sports events, gyms and businesses offering hairdressing, skincare, massage, body care and tattooing are all banned. Swimming pools will be closed.
  • Buffet restaurants are banned. Other restaurants, bars and cafés must ensure guests are kept at least one metre from one another.
  • A requirement for everyone arriving in Norway from outside the Nordic to enter quarantine, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is retroactive to 27 February.
  • Restrictions on visitors to all the country's health facilities and the introduction of access control.
  • People are asked not to visit institutions housing vulnerable groups (old people's home, psychiatric hospitals, prisons etc).
  • Healthcare professionals working with patients are banned from travelling abroad.

The measures came after Norwegian Directorate of Health announced on Wednesday that the battle against the illness had entered a “new phase”, with the strategy shifting from containment to mitigation. 

Oslo's city government on Wednesday afternoon announced that it was increasing the city's emergency preparedness to “Level 3”, which will see a central crisis management established the city, with enhanced coordination between different agencies. 

It also announced a range of new restrictions, including the requirement that all meetings involving more than 100 people apply for special permission. 

The measures are similar to those announced in the city of Bergen on Tuesday. Bergen on Wednesday also sent out a press release announcing that it was stopping all cruise ship passengers from disembarking in the city.

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The information is also accessible on FHI’s website where it will be updated on an ongoing basis. The FHI website has both Norwegian and English language versions.

FHI recommends the following everyday precautions to help prevent infection:

  • Use paper tissues in front of your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Throw away the tissue and wash your hands afterwards.
  • If you do not have a tissue to hand, sneeze or cough into your elbow, rather than into your hand.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly, particularly when you have been out amongst other people.
  • Cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based disinfectant is a good alternative if you are not immediately close to soap and running water.

People who are sick can reduce the chance of passing on the virus by avoiding coughing and sneezing directly on to others and keeping a distance of at least one metre wherever possible, FHI advises. But the above advice also applies if you are not sick, as the virus can be present in your respiratory system even if you do not have the resultant illness.

Good hand hygiene is recommended as good practice for everybody – healthy or otherwise. If your hands become wet or dirty, wash them with soap and water as soon as you can.

As coronavirus is a respiratory infection, FHI recommends taking measures to prevent infection that would also be effective against other types of respiratory infection – such as influenza or the common cold.

As such, the mouth, eyes and nose are the most common routes via which the virus can be transported from one person to another. That can be via droplets which travel in the air (including when sneezing, coughing or speaking) or by leaving particles on surfaces (also by, for example, sneezing and coughing) which are then touched by another person.

Therefore, good hand hygiene is a helpful measure to reduce the chance of passing the virus. Other health authorities have also encouraged avoiding touching your face with your hands.

Family members who have been in close contact with a person who has the virus should be extra diligent with hand hygiene, FHI writes.

Face masks are not recommended by FHI for healthy people unless you work in the healthcare sector or are in contact with someone with confirmed or suspected coronavirus.

Unnecessary use of face masks can in actually have the opposite to the intended effect, FHI writes, as they can cause you to touch your face more than you normally would.

People who have coronavirus are advised to wear face masks to help protect others from catching it.

If you have travelled to an outbreak area

Healthy people who have been in the area of persistent virus spread within the last 14 days should be vigilant for signs of respiratory infection (fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms) for 14 days after arriving in or returning to Norway and contact the health service (by phone) if symptoms occur, FHI advises.

Norway’s foreign ministry is currently advising against all non-essential travel to Italian regions Lombardy, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Marche, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzo. You can check the ministries current travel advice for Italy and all other countries on the ministry’s website.

FHI advises against all travel to areas with widespread outbreaks and generally against non-essential travel to areas with “local spread of infection”.

The authority’s website currently lists Hubei province in China, the Italian regions named above, all of Iran and South Korea, and Tirol in Austria and outbreak areas.

The remainder of mainland China along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are listed as areas with local spread of infection.

You can check the areas currently encompassed by the FHI advice via the authority’s website.

Healthy people who have been in contact with a person who has been diagnosed with the virus within the last 14 days should contact the health service, which will then monitor the situation.

FHI advises people in Norway to initially contact their own doctor. If it is not possible to get in touch with your doctor in Norway, you can all the on-call doctor using telephone number 116117.

What do I do if I think I might have symptoms?

Contact your doctor by telephone for advice and to arrange medical examination if necessary. Do not go directly to your doctor or to a hospital without calling ahead.

  • call your GP
  • if you are unable to get hold of your GP, you can call an on-call doctor via telephone number 116117

Symptoms are as with other respiratory infections and listed by FHI as including cough, fever, sore throat, chest pain and difficulty breathing.

FHI’s information number for people with questions related to coronavirus is 815 55 015.

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