Coronavirus: More infectious variants detected in Norway

Norway’s public health authorities say that a new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa and more contagious than other forms, has been detected in the Nordic country, along with further cases of a variant first reported in the United Kingdom.

Coronavirus: More infectious variants detected in Norway
Samples from coronavirus tests taken in South Africa. Photo: AFP

The variant was detected on Monday, the Norwegian Institute for Public Health (NIPH) said.

The person infected with the variant travelled from South Africa to Norway in December, the agency said.

Additionally, another four people infected with B117, the more contagious variant first reported in southeastern England, has been detected in a further four people in Norway. The four cases were detected in people who had travelled from the UK to Norway.

Cases of the B117 variant in Norway were first reported in late December.

READ ALSO: Two cases of infectious UK Covid variant found in Norway

“Contact tracking teams in the municipalities will now follow up with regard to existing routines with extra testing and closer monitoring of close contacts to reduce the risk of possible further spread,” NIPH head of department Line Vold said in a statement.

A total of 23 cases of the B117 variant from the UK, and one case of the variant from South Africa, have now been detected in Norway.

According to NIPH, both forms appear to be more contagious than the regular variants but do not so far appear to cause more serious illness.

British experts have said that the B117 variant is up to 70 percent more contagious than more common variants of the virus. But it does not appear to be any more deadly, and there is so far no evidence that it is less responsive to vaccines. 

“These variants have been detected in several European countries and there is reason to believe the variants may also be found in countries where the genome of the virus is not investigated, meaning mutations are not detected,” Vold said.

“When several countries begin such tests we will get a better insight into the prevalence of this variant,” she added.

One country to have conducted relatively large-scale DNA sequencing on positive Covid-19 swabs, the analysis referred to by Vold, is Norway’s Scandinavian neighbour Denmark.

At least 86 people in Denmark have tested positive for the B117 variant although the actual number could be around nine times higher, according to the country’s infectious disease agency.

READ ALSO: How widespread is more contagious variant of Covid-19 in Denmark?

Authorities in South Africa issued warnings over the mutation in the country on December 18th having seen a rapid spread in three regions.

The variant in South Africa is not the same as the one detected in the UK, and differences between the two have given rise to questions as to whether the South African variant is even more infectious than the British one.

“There are reasons to be cautious, but it still remains uncertain how large a role these variants are playing in infection rates,” Vold said.

“The normal responses to the epidemic, such as staying at home when sick, testing, tracing and quarantine, social distance and fewer participants at gatherings will also be important limiting factors against this variant,” she added.

“So far, now evidence has been reported that effectiveness of vaccines is affected,” she said.


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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


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. 


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. 


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


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.