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COVID-19

EU could see Covid-19 vaccinations rolled out ‘first quarter next year’

The head of the EU health agency has said that its first vaccinations against Covid-19 could get under way in the first quarter of 2021 – in an optimistic scenario.

EU could see Covid-19 vaccinations rolled out 'first quarter next year'
Researchers around the world have been working on finding a vaccine. Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

“I think optimistically first quarter next year, but I can't be more precise,” Andrea Ammon, the director of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told AFP on Wednesday.

A European source told AFP on Tuesday that a vaccine could be authorised for use in the EU in “early 2021”, after the announcement that US pharmaceutical group Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech's vaccine had shown 90 percent effectiveness in phase three trials.

“Of course it's promising,” said Ammon, stressing that so far it is a “press release and not yet a (scientific) peer review, so we have to see what the final assessment will be”.

Ammon said the pandemic's development in Europe was “very, very concerning” and all indicators “are going in the wrong direction right now”.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Europe has suffered at least 311,000 deaths from more than 13 million infections, and many countries have been hit by a second wave.

Ammon urged Europeans to respect their countries' restrictions and measures to curb the spread of the virus, “as hard as it may be”.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

All Covid travel rules for Norway have been completely lifted for a while now- but what happens if you test positive or start to develop Covid symptoms while you are here?

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

Covid travel rules in Norway have been lifted for a while, and all but a few recommendations remain domestically. This is a far cry from a similar time last year when Norway had very strict travel rules in place. 

Testing

Close contacts of Covid infected are not required to get a test, meaning if you have been in contact with somebody with Covid-19, you will not be required to get tested under the official rules. 

However, if you wish to take a test, you can buy self-tests at supermarkets and pharmacies. You can also order Covid-19 tests from Norwegian municipalities if you want a PCR test. You can find the contact information for every municipality in Norway here. Facemasks are also widely available in shops and pharmacies. 

Several private providers, such as Volvat and Dr Dropin, offer antigen and PCR tests with results within 24 hours. However, municipality tests can take longer to deliver results. If you need a test to travel home, you will not be able to get one from a local authority. These tests are only for those with symptoms of Covid-19.  

Home tests will not cost more than 60 kroner from supermarkets, while a municipality test will be free. However, private providers’ tests are pricier, costing between 1,000 and 1,500 kroner at most private clinics.

Isolation

There are also no specific rules in regards to isolation. 

“If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until you feel well. If you feel well, you can live as normal,” Helsenorge advises on its websiteMeaning that if you are asymptomatic, you aren’t advised to isolate. 

Other symptoms which you may need to isolate with include headache and blocked nose and influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and feeling unwell. 

The isolation information means you will need to liaise with the hotel or accommodation you are staying at. 

Travellers are advised to check what their insurance covers before taking out a policy to avoid being left out of pocket if they have to pay for new flights or an extended stay because they are isolating. 

If you test positive, you are also advised to steer clear of those in risk groups. 

Self-isolation advice applies regardless of vaccination status or previous infection. 

What else should I know? 

If your symptoms get worse, the best course of practice would be to contact a standard GP.

You can also contact the out-of-hours urgent care number on 116 117. This will put you through to the nearest urgent care centre to you. Visitors can also call for an ambulance on 113, but this is only advisable in life-threatening situations, such as a stroke or cardiac arrest.

In addition to checking your insurance policy, you also will need to check the rules of the country you are returning to or travelling through in case you may need a test to enter. 

If you have an EHIC card and receive medical care after testing positive for Covid-19, you will only be required to pay the same subsidised fees Norwegians do for healthcare. Despite this, European citizens are also advised to take out travel insurance. 

Non-European visitors are entitled to urgent medical care but will need to pay the full cost with no prospect of reimbursement if they don’t have health insurance. 

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