SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

Three scenarios: When will life return to normal in Norway?

If everything goes according to plan, life in Norway may return to normal by late summer. But insecurity regarding vaccines and mutated variants make predictions difficult.

Three scenarios: When will life return to normal in Norway?
Photo by Ivars Utināns on Unsplash

The Norwegian government last week presented three scenarios for exiting the pandemic from the best to worst case scenarios (see bottom of article).

While significant uncertainties regarding access to vaccines, the effectiveness of the measures to control the spread of the virus and the spread of mutated variants make it difficult to make accurate predictions, people in Norway should prepare for living with the pandemic until the summer, at least.

“It’s too early to determine when the virus restrictions should be eased and in what order,” said Norway’s Minister of Health, Bent Høie in a press release. “The measures that we all know well, such as keeping your hands clean, staying at home when ill and maintaining social distancing, will be in force for a long time.

“Other restrictions will be eased and removed as soon as it’s safe with respect to preventing transmission,” he said.

Expect restrictions through spring

When Norway, and the rest of the world, will emerge from the pandemic hinges on two factors in particular: the success and speed of vaccination programmes and the emergence and spread of new mutated variants.

In the best-case scenario, Norway may have vaccinated the at-risk population by Easter, and the rest of the adult population by this summer. This may entail lifting the strictest measures by mid-2021.

In the worst-case scenario, however, issues with the supply and effectiveness of vaccines and/or emergence of Covid-19 variants resistant to vaccines, could allow the pandemic to rage on into the next year.

Head of NIPH, Camilla Stoltenberg, thinks Norway may be on track to vaccinate all residents over 18-years old by September.

“The biggest constraint on the pace of vaccinations in Norway going forward is the number of available vaccines and vaccine doses,” Stoltenberg said, reports news agency NTB.

New vaccines

In order for this to happen, NIPH is relying on three new vaccines to be approved for use in Norway, in addition to the vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

“If we assume that the three vaccines are approved (CureVac, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax) and that they deliver enough through April to September to vaccinate 3.5 to 4 million people, we will probably be able to offer the first dose to everybody over the age of 18 by the end of July,” said Stoltenberg.

Johnson & Johnson has applied to have its coronavirus vaccine approved in the US, the company said Thursday.

Unlike most other vaccines, this vaccine requires only a single jab, something that can considerably speed up the rate of vaccinations.

The company plans to seek approval from EU-regulators during the coming weeks. 

The EU was on Friday also negotiating to double the number of doses from vaccine producer Moderna, to over 300 million, head of Sweden’s vaccine programme Richard Bergström told Norwegian newspaper VG.

Despite not being a EU-member, Norway has secured access to vaccines through an agreement it has with the union. If the new deal goes through, this would increase Norway’s access of Moderna-doses from 1.9 million to 3.8 million by this summer.

Steady pace

Norway is currently in the process of vaccinating all people in at-risk groups. Stoltenberg said that the aim is to offer this group the first jab by mid-May, followed by healthcare workers by the end of May.

By Thursday, over 160,000 people had received the first dose of the vaccine, while 38,000 also had received the second dose.

Mutation fear

The emergence of new mutated Covid-19 variants, however, continues to cause concern. The emergence of a cluster of the B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the UK, in the Norwegian municipality of Nordre Follo, half an hour from Norway’s capital Oslo, at the end of January, led to strict measures being imposed in the region around Oslo.

While restrictions are beginning to ease, new cases of B.1.1.7 have recently been reported around the country. Fredrikstad, a town about one hour drive south of Oslo, Friday reported several new cases and the municipality suspects that 20 people may be infected with the this strain, Fredrikstad Blad reports.

While the variant discovered in the UK does not seem to render vaccines less effective, scientists are concerned that the case may be different for the variants first discovered in South Africa and Brazil.

“We can expect that the effectiveness of the vaccine may decline,” biotechnologist Sigrid Bratlie told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

According to NIPH, 2,320 cases of mutated variants have been reported in Norway. So far, this is overwhelmingly the B.1.1.7-variant, which means there may still be hope for the government’s best-case scenario.

Whether or not this will still be true in six months, however, will depend on how the rest of the world fares in combating the virus.

Norway’s three scenarios for ending the pandemic, according to the government:

Best case scenario

  • More vaccines are approved and people in at-risk groups are vaccinated by Easter
  • The remaining adult population are vaccinated by the summer
  • Mutated strains do not spread uncontrollably through the population
  • Vaccines are highly effective against the virus
  • The rate of transmission is kept low in all of Europe
  • The most invasive and strictest measures may be eased by late spring and early summer; people can return to work and businesses can start operating close to normal

Medium case scenario

  • Delivery of vaccine doses is delayed and mutated strains spread but are monitored through testing and tracking
  • People in at-risk groups are vaccinated by the summer. The rest of the adult population is vaccinated by the end of the year
  • Some measures may be eased by the summer, but many will stay in place during the fall
  • All restrictions are eased by the end of the year

Worst case scenario

  • The share of the population that is vaccinated remains low due to supply problems, side effects or ineffectiveness against mutated variants
  • New vaccines have to be developed and vaccination must start fresh
  • Strict measures are kept in place throughout the summer and fall
  • People do not adhere to restrictions
  • Hospitals and health services come under increased pressure and more invasive national measures are implemented
  • Measures to tackle the pandemic and economic consequences will remain in place throughout the year

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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. 

SHOW COMMENTS