‘A good sign’: Norway’s health chief says reason to be positive despite surge in infections

'A good sign': Norway's health chief says reason to be positive despite surge in infections
(Ina FASSBENDER / AFP)
Rising Covid-19 infections in Norway have forced the government to ramp up nationwide restrictions, but the country's health chief said the rate was "a good sign".
A day after the government announced new restrictions, Camilla Stoltenberg director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) told NRK radio that there were still reasons to be positive.
 
“It seems that the steep increase has become less steep, and that it is hopefully a sign that there will now be a flattening (of the curve) if we continue to have such strict measures, yes that may be a good sign. I think that is a good sign,” she said.

Health authorities initially feared that daily infection numbers could reach 2,500 if the R number was not reduced.

1,085 people have tested positive for Coronavirus in Norway in the past 24 hours, 65 fewer than last week. Last week Health Minister Bent Høie said at a press conference that Norway was in a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday Norway announced that tighter Covid-19 measures will be in place over the upcoming Easter holidays. The measures are a combination of restrictions and recommendations that will apply nationwide.

Measures include a limit of two guests at private homes and a national ban on businesses serving alcohol. All unnecessary domestic travel within Norway is also advised against.

READ MORE: Norway announces tightening of national Covid-19 restrictions 

The NIPH and the Norwegian Directorate of Health urged the government to introduce these measures for Easter because evidence has shown them that infection rates increase when people are on holiday.

Easter in Norway normally sees many travel within Norway to visit friends and family, travel to ski resorts or travel to their country homes or cabins.

However, despite early signs of infections slowing down Stoltenberg still believes the measures introduced for Easter are still necessary.

Bjørn Guldvog, head of the Norwegian Directorate of Health echoed this view at a press conference on Tuesday night.

“The measures we put in place a few weeks ago have had an effect, but they are not sufficient to stop the increase in infection with the new virus variants that we have now,” he said.

Stoltenberg hopes that measures can begin to be eased in May, but more positive signs will be needed before that happens.

“We need to see that the number of new infections decreases, and that it decreases in the areas that are hardest hit, in Oslo and Viken in particular. And we need to see that we can manage to maintain testing and preferably we need to see a downturn when it comes to the number who become seriously ill,” said Stoltenberg.

The Norwegian government previously aimed to release its plan for reopening Norway and the easing of restrictions in March. On Tuesday night health minister Bent Høie told a press conference this would no longer be the case.

“We have previously announced that we will probably present the long-term plan for the reopening of the country at the end of March. We now cannot do that due to the infection situation, but work on the plan to reopen is now in full swing,” said Høie.


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