Several cases of new Covid-19 variant detected in Norway

A new variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Norway, the country’s health authority has said. The variant has similarities to existing, more infectious variants.

Several cases of new Covid-19 variant detected in Norway
Illustration photo: AFP

The new variant, B1525, has similarities to both the B117 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom; and variant B1351, first detected in South Africa, Norwegian national broadcaster NRK reports.

Around ten cases of the B1525 variant have been found in Norway in the last day, according to the report. The variant has also been found in Denmark, the UK and the United States.

“We don’t yet know yet whether it is more infectious, but it could be. There are changes to the part of the virus which may affect infectiousness,” Line Vold, head of department at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), told NRK.

Norway, like Denmark, the UK and Iceland, analyses a large proportion of positive Covid-19 swabs to test for new variants.

That could be a reason for the apparent emergence of the new variant in the Nordic country, Vold said.

“Many countries are not as good at doing the demanding analyses which tell us which type of virus is circulating,” she told NRK.

NIPH is monitoring the B117 and B1351 variants in particular.

Both have been shown to be significantly more infectious than previous forms of Covid-19. The former now comprises around one in seven new infections in Oslo, with up to 700 cases so far identified.

A total of 42 cases of the B1351 variant have also been detected.

Vold said the new B1525 variant will be monitored as is practice with potentially infectious mutations. It was too early to say whether the cases were brought in to Norway from abroad or are community transmissions, NRK writes.

The emergence of new variants in general is natural, Vold said.

“We also see changes in other mutations circulating in (Norway). New variants are spreading in the world and it’s a natural evolution of the virus that it keeps changing,” she said.

Member comments

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


Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany