Norway says it has coronavirus outbreak ‘under control’

Norway says it has coronavirus outbreak 'under control'
Residents of the Nordberg home for the elderly take part in outdoor activities during the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in Oslo, Norway. AFP
Norway's government said Monday it considered the coronavirus outbreak to be "under control" in the country.

The government said the reproduction rate — the number of new people infected by each patient with the virus — had fallen to 0.7. 

That was down from 2.5 when containment measures, such as banning sports and cultural events and the closing of all educational institutions, were introduced in mid-March. 

“This means that we have brought the coronavirus infection under control,” Health Minister Bent Hoie told reporters.

But he added it was still necessary to keep regulations to contain the outbreak in place.

“The measures have led to us getting a solid upper hand. We have to keep that,” the minister said.

But the director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Camilla Stoltenberg, said there was still uncertainty over the accuracy of the reproduction rate.

Still, she conceded “there has been a positive development” in the data in recent weeks.

On March 12, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced what she dubbed “the strongest and most intrusive measures” the country had seen in “peacetime.”

Bars were closed across the country, along with public swimming pools, gyms, hairdressers and massage and tattoo parlours.

Restaurants were permitted to remain open but can no longer serve buffets and are required to ensure that guests can keep a minimum distance of one metre from each other

In addition, the government said all people returning from trips outside the Nordic region would be quarantined for two weeks. 

 
 

However, open-air walks and jogging, for example, are still allowed, and most shops and businesses are still open.

As of Monday, the Nordic country had 5,755 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 59 deaths.

Norway's government will on Tuesday decide on what restrictions to lift after the Easter break to bring the country slowly back to something close to normal.
 
Svenn-Erik Mamelund, a professor at OsloMet University who worked as a pandemic expert at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health at the time of the swine flu epidemic, said that he felt that the government's rhetoric had shifted since the beginning of the epidemic. 
 
“Initially, they didn't talk in their strategy about 'controlling' the disease, stopping it, killing it,” he said. “Somewhere along the way something happened. Politicians in the end make choices based on insecure information and lots of insecurity and at some point in time, they somehow stopped listening to some of the advice coming from the academics.”
 
He said that the government must realise that sooner or later, there will need to allow more infections in the country. 
 
“Although they talk about stopping or killing or suppressing the virus, I think they must have this idea on board at the same time  that the idea is to let he Norwegian population build up immunity,” he said. 
 
“I'm worried that when we do open up schools and shops and everything that has been closed down over the last weeks, hairdressers and libraries and so on, we will definitely see more cases coming up,” he said.  “But the government does know this, and I guess it's part of the strategy.” 
 
 
Arnoldo Frigessi, Professor at Oslo University's Centre for Global Health, told The Local that Norway had succeeded in suppressing the pandemic. 
 
“It's clear that the intervention that we've done in the middle of March had a big effect, that's completely clear,” he said. “But what has been done has been just to put a brake on the epidemic, not to stop it.” 
 
Every restriction the government now loosens, he said, is likely to lead to an increase in the number of infections. But as coronavirus is so new and and there is so little data available, it is impossible to predict with any confidence just how big an increase that might be. 
 
 
 

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