Høie said on Thursday that the reproduction rate of the virus must be brought below 1.0, and that new restrictions would be implemented to this end.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) this week reported that the reproduction number, also known as R-number, for the virus is currently at 1.3. As such, 10 people infected with the virus are currently infecting 13 others, causing the epidemic to spread.
Local restrictions are in place in Oslo and Kristiansand in response to the recent uptick in cases in both cities. Høie has now asked the Norwegian Directorate of Health and NIPH to check whether current restrictions will reduce infection numbers sufficiently.
“We now have an R-number of 1.3. That means infections are increasing quite fast. If that is allowed to continue during March and April it will have dramatic consequences for many people who will get seriously ill and have to go to hospital. The health service would be seriously overloaded,” the minister told NRK.
Assistant Director Espen Rostrup Nakstad of the Norwegian Directorate of Health told the broadcaster that if not slowed, the current infection curve could result in “50 times” more infections than the current number by May 17th, Norway’s national day.
Høie also noted concerns about the potential effects of the more infectious B117 variant of the virus, first identified in the UK, on hospitalisations in Norway.
1,091 cases of the variant known have been confirmed in Norway since December last year, but the last two weeks saw 320 cases of B117 confirmed using genome sequencing and a further 1,217 “likely” cases of the variant detected with PCR testing, according to NIPH’s most recent weekly report.
The minister also said that both national and regional measures would be considered as a response to the currently high R-number.
Nakstad told newspaper VG that the health directorate was working with NIPH on national and regional measures “that can be necessary to turn around the increasing infection trend” in Norway.
The agencies would send recommendations to the government “within a relatively short space of time,” he said.