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RESEARCH

Norwegian experts find increased risk of hospitalisation with infectious Covid-19 variant

A report from Norway's National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) has found that people who contract the B117 variant of Covid-19 are 2.6 times more likely to need hospital treatment than those with previous forms of the virus.

Norwegian experts find increased risk of hospitalisation with infectious Covid-19 variant
(Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)

“People infected with the British variant are associated with a 2.6 times higher risk of being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 as the main reason for hospitalisation, department director at the NIPH Line Vold told broadcaster NRK in reference to the more infectious B117 variant, which first emerged in the United Kingdom late last year and has since spread to many other countries including Norway.

The report also states that B117 is now the dominant virus variant in Norway. At the beginning of March, approximately 72 percent of all new infections in Norway were with the more infectious variant.

The increase in the likelihood of being admitted to hospital occurs in all age groups, the report found. The study showed that the variant can also cause serious illness in young people and adults under 40.

READ MORE: Why Norway turned down the chance order nearly 700,000 vaccines 

The findings show that of the 1100 people in their thirties who were infected with the B117 variant between December 14th and March 7th, 38 people were hospitalised. This is a share of 3.5 percent compared to the 0.9 percent of people who were admitted with a non-specific variant.

“The risk is still low in the younger age groups, but it is somewhat increased in all age groups from 20 years and upwards where we have such large numbers that we can rely on those numbers,” Vold said.

The study included all new cases between December 14th and March 7th.

In the second week of March, 165 people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19. This the highest number of admissions to hospital with Covid-19 during a week since March 2020.

“It is serious that this new more, contagious variant, also seems to give a higher risk of hospitalisations. We are concerned about the spread of infection with this new variant,” said Vold.

The study is awaiting peer review.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

All Covid travel rules for Norway have been completely lifted for a while now- but what happens if you test positive or start to develop Covid symptoms while you are here?

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

Covid travel rules in Norway have been lifted for a while, and all but a few recommendations remain domestically. This is a far cry from a similar time last year when Norway had very strict travel rules in place. 

Testing

Close contacts of Covid infected are not required to get a test, meaning if you have been in contact with somebody with Covid-19, you will not be required to get tested under the official rules. 

However, if you wish to take a test, you can buy self-tests at supermarkets and pharmacies. You can also order Covid-19 tests from Norwegian municipalities if you want a PCR test. You can find the contact information for every municipality in Norway here. Facemasks are also widely available in shops and pharmacies. 

Several private providers, such as Volvat and Dr Dropin, offer antigen and PCR tests with results within 24 hours. However, municipality tests can take longer to deliver results. If you need a test to travel home, you will not be able to get one from a local authority. These tests are only for those with symptoms of Covid-19.  

Home tests will not cost more than 60 kroner from supermarkets, while a municipality test will be free. However, private providers’ tests are pricier, costing between 1,000 and 1,500 kroner at most private clinics.

Isolation

There are also no specific rules in regards to isolation. 

“If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until you feel well. If you feel well, you can live as normal,” Helsenorge advises on its websiteMeaning that if you are asymptomatic, you aren’t advised to isolate. 

Other symptoms which you may need to isolate with include headache and blocked nose and influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and feeling unwell. 

The isolation information means you will need to liaise with the hotel or accommodation you are staying at. 

Travellers are advised to check what their insurance covers before taking out a policy to avoid being left out of pocket if they have to pay for new flights or an extended stay because they are isolating. 

If you test positive, you are also advised to steer clear of those in risk groups. 

Self-isolation advice applies regardless of vaccination status or previous infection. 

What else should I know? 

If your symptoms get worse, the best course of practice would be to contact a standard GP.

You can also contact the out-of-hours urgent care number on 116 117. This will put you through to the nearest urgent care centre to you. Visitors can also call for an ambulance on 113, but this is only advisable in life-threatening situations, such as a stroke or cardiac arrest.

In addition to checking your insurance policy, you also will need to check the rules of the country you are returning to or travelling through in case you may need a test to enter. 

If you have an EHIC card and receive medical care after testing positive for Covid-19, you will only be required to pay the same subsidised fees Norwegians do for healthcare. Despite this, European citizens are also advised to take out travel insurance. 

Non-European visitors are entitled to urgent medical care but will need to pay the full cost with no prospect of reimbursement if they don’t have health insurance. 

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