LATEST: Norway’s restrictions help flatten Covid curve but virus variant concerns persist

LATEST: Norway's restrictions help flatten Covid curve but virus variant concerns persist
AFP
A cluster of the more contagious mutated variant of Covid-19, first discovered in the UK, is causing concern in Norway. But a new report shows a clear overall reduction in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

As of Wednesday, Norway had recorded 51,594 cases of Covid-19 and 556 deaths, according to the data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). But a new report published by the institute also gave grounds for cautious optimism.

The report shows that the number of new cases has been more than halved between the first and third week of the year, from 4,645 to 2,180. The institute warns, however, that the number of people tested also fell in the same period.

The share of people who tested positive for Covid-19 nevertheless declined from 2.5 percent to 1.1 percent.

The virus’ reproductive number (R) is now also estimated to be 0.6, meaning that ten infected people on average pass the virus on to only six more people. In other words the spread of the virus is receding.

“Data from monitoring and models show a significant decrease in the rate of transmission the last two weeks, and a fairly stable trend in the number of new patients in hospital and intensive care units and deaths over several weeks,” the institute concludes.

The numbers will allow the government breathe a sigh of relief.

Many in Norway had feared a spike in the number of new cases after Christmas and New Year. But the recent figures indicate that the government’s strict measures introduced in the first two weeks have proved effective.

“The reduction in the number of reported cases in the last few weeks is most likely a result of the tightened restrictions during the first weeks of 2021,” NIPH writes,

But while the trend overall may be in decline, the outbreak of the mutated variant from the UK is a cause of worry in the east of the country. While the variant is not considered more deadly, concerns have been raised that it’s much more contagious.

After identifying a cluster cases of cases of the mutated variant in Nordre Follo municipality, the government implemented a lockdown in a total of ten municipalities on Saturday January 23rd. The day after, strict measures were also introduced in a further 15 municipalities.

As of Wednesday, 135 cases of the virus variant have been identified in Norway, according to NIPH. But the outlook looks less bleak than it did a short while ago. The institute now believes that the mutated virus might in fact be less easily transmissible than initially feared.

“We believe that the rate of transmission for the English variant is at a level where a patient on average infects about 0.3 to 0.4 more patients than a patient with the old virus,” senior medical consultant Preben Aavitsland at NIPH told regional newspaper Bergens Tidende.

“This is based on an interpretation of the picture that is emerging from among others Denmark and the UK,” he added.

He stresses that the new variant is still significantly more contagious than the old one.

At the same time, the number of people who have received the first jab of the vaccination was on a steady upward trajectory, surpassing 80,000 people on Wednesday.

Minister of Health Bent Høie, however, warned that Norway’s vaccination programme may be significantly delayed due to supply shortages of the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

NIPH also warns that while the curve may be flattening, people must remain cautious.

“It’s important that the municipalities around the country maintains their readiness in order to quickly identify and get local outbreaks under control,” the institute stressed.

 

 

 

 


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