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Norway has not reached coronavirus peak, health agency warns

Norway's main public health body has warned the government that it needs to start preparing the public for a coronavirus peak which will require more than a thousand people to be treated in intensive care at the same time.

Norway has not reached coronavirus peak, health agency warns
The Oslo offices of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Photo: Christian Irmer/Flcikr
“The signal sent has been of a 'zero vision': every infectious situation and every case is seen as a failure of the strategy,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) wrote in a risk report submitted to the Norwegian government on Sunday. 
 
It warned that government rhetoric about 'knocking down' the virus risked prolonging the crisis by making it more difficult to slowly lift restrictions. 
 
“This means that it could be challenging to 'turn off' the measures,” the institute said. “The inertia is great. People could demand a guarantee against infection if they are to resume participation in school or work.” 
 
The day after the report was submitted, Norway's government overrode the recommendations, ignoring the call for it to begin communicating that while the lockdown has put a brake on the pandemic, it has not ended it.
 
Health Minister Bent Høie on Monday announced that the country had successfully “brought the infection under control”. “The measures have led to us getting a solid upper hand. We have to keep that,” he said.
 
In its report, the institute advised Norway's government that it should begin to start informing the population that tens of thousands of people would inevitably become sick. 
 
 
 
“Risk communication about this epidemic must be strengthened and the population must be prepared for the epidemic to come, and that many will then become ill, and some seriously ill,” the report read. 
 
“The response to the epidemic must be dynamic and, if necessary, geographically varied with the aim of having a set of measures that keep the epidemic within the capacity of the health service, but without any 'zero vision' for the spread of infection.” 
 
The institute estimated that once the restrictions began to be lifted, the country would have to go through an epidemic which would mean up to 50 percent of the population getting ill at some point. 
 
 
At peak, it predicted, as many as 36,000 would be ill, of whom 1,700 to 4,500 would need hospital treatment simultaneously, while 600 to 1,200 would need to be treated in intensive care at the same time.  
 
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 was happy that he no longer faced the political pressure his former colleagues were under. 
 
 
“Initially, they didn't talk in their strategy about 'controlling' the disease, stopping it, killing it,” he said of Norway's politicians. “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.”
 
Mamelund said that his government must realise that, sooner or later, it would need to allow the infections to spread more freely 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 the Norwegian population build up immunity,” he said. 
 

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OSLO

EXPLAINED: What Oslo’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you

Most, but not all, of the Norwegian capital's local Covid restrictions have been lifted to fall in line with national coronavirus rules, with new limits on guests at home and new guidance on face masks. Here’s a rundown of what the latest restrictions mean for you.

EXPLAINED: What Oslo's easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you
Oslo's skyline. Photo by Oscar Daniel Rangel on Unsplash

Covid-19 measures in Oslo have been relaxed, with the majority of local restrictions being replaced with the looser national rules.

The new rules are a mix of steps three and four of the city’s five-step reopening plan and were introduced after the lowest infection numbers since last autumn were recorded in Oslo last week. 

Last week, 239 coronavirus infections were registered in the Norwegian capital. 

“The gradual, controlled opening of Oslo has been a success. Many of the rules that the people of Oslo have been expected to live with are now being removed, and we will essentially live with the same corona rules as people elsewhere in Norway,” Oslo’s Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Not all local restrictions have been lifted however, meaning there are a mix of local and national rules in place. 

Below we’ll take a look at how the measures will affect everyday life in Oslo. 

At home 

The significant change here is that the ban on having more than ten people gathered at home has been lifted completely. Instead, this will be replaced with the national recommendation not to have more than guests. 

So while it will not be recommended to have more than ten guests, it’s not an enforceable rule anymore. 

READ MORE: What happens if you get caught breaking the Covid-19 rules in Norway

Shopping 

The local rules for shopping malls and stores have been tweaked too. There will no longer be any rule that makes face masks mandatory in shops. In addition to this, the official social distancing measure has been halved, to one metre, and the limit on the number of people allowed in shops has been scrapped. 

However, it’s worth noting that some shops may wish to keep some infection control measures in place if they feel it helps keep staff and shoppers safe, so it may be worth bringing a mask along on your next trip to the shops just in case.

Face masks  

The rule on mandatory face masks in public has also been given the axe, with two exceptions. 

You will still need one if you are taking public transport or taking a taxi. 

Masks will no longer be needed in shops, gyms, museums and galleries, indoor swimming pools, spa facilities and hotel facilities such as pools and dining areas. 

Although, some places may still wish to continue with a mask policy, so always remember to have one handy to be sure. 

Hospitality 

At indoor public places, such as restaurants, 50 people are allowed in venues without fixed assigned seats and 200 people at events with set, assigned seats.

Outdoors, 200 people can gather in cohorts of three, meaning a potential venue of 600 for places with the space and capacity and where there is fixed designated seating.

Soon, when the government changes its rules for events, up to 5,000 people will be able to gather when there is a seating plan in place, provided venues aren’t operating above 50 percent capacity.  

Up to 20 people can book a table at a restaurant or bar when indoors and 30 people outdoors. 

Alcohol will now be able to be served until midnight rather than 10 pm, and this rule will stay in place until July 4th. The cut-off point will remain in place even if national rules change and allow alcohol to be served later. 

Sports, leisure and entertainment 

Bingo halls, bowling alleys, arcades, playgrounds can now reopen.

Oslo’s numbers cap on the people allowed in gyms, museums, galleries, and indoor pools has been lifted. 

Now, 20 people can work out, go for a swim, or take in some art indoors, and up to 30 can do so outdoors. 

Schools 

Restrictions for schools and kindergartens haven’t changed, however. 

This means that schools and kindergartens in Oslo will remain at yellow level. 

Yellow level means that full class sizes are allowed, but mixing between classes must be kept to a minimum. Yellow level also means increased cleaning and hygiene measures are also in place. 

You can read more about yellow level here

Adult education and university are at red level, which means digital learning where possible and minimal contact between students and teachers. 

You can read more on red level here

Work

People are still required to work from home where possible until July 4th. 

Executive mayor Johansen has previously said the home office would be one of the last pandemic measures to go, meaning it could be here for a while longer. 

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