'People have been good’: Norway health chief sees no major increase in Covid-19 infections over Easter
According to Espen Nakstad, Assistant Director of Health at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, there will be no need to tighten coronavirus restrictions as a result of infection rates after the Easter holidays.
The assistant health director was cautiously optimistic ahead of the publication of updated data on, given infections tend to be lower on weekends than on weekdays. The figures for Tuesday will complete the data set and give a full picture of whether infection increased over Easter.
“The figures are starting to tell us that Easter went well this year without any increase in infection. But we will not get a proper picture until tomorrow, then we have had a whole week of testing after Easter,” Nakstad told newspaper VG.
On March 25th, the government introduced strict measures to combat infection over Easter as many travel within Norway to visit friends, family, their holiday homes, or go on ski trips.
Nakstad is pleased that the strict infection control measures appear to have had the desired impact.
“It is clear that people have been very good at following advice and rules this Easter. Fewer people have travelled abroad and those who have been in Norway have limited social contact. There is a big difference compared to Christmas and the autumn holidays. This is probably the main reason why this has gone well. It is also very good to see that the strict measures we have are actually starting to reduce the infection,” he told VG.
This means that there will be no need to tighten measures, and that the governments four step plan to reopen society is on track.
“This means that we can rather follow this and follow the reopening plan that the government has presented in the coming months,” he said.
Nakstad, however, says that no final decision will be made until authorities have the complete data set.
“I think we probably need to see seven normal days of testing before we can conclude. The trend is that (infections) have not increased sharply at Easter, it has rather decreased. We should all be very happy with that,” he said.
He also emphasised that it is important that the reopening plan takes place in a controlled and gradual manner. He has previously said that Norway should be registering under 200 Coronavirus infections a day before reopening.
- 'Step by step': Norway unveils four-step plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions
- Coronavirus cases 'must be below 200 per day' before Norway can reopen
“If people remember that it is important to think about these things (reopening) in terms of months, such a reopening will go well. But if at the first crossroads you think now it’s over and we can drop everything it will not go particularly well,” he said.
According to the latest figures from the Norwegian Institute of Public Heath, the reproduction rate or R-number is at 0.86. This means that the virus is receding in Norway as 100 people with Coronavirus would only infect another 86.
Naksatd has warned that as restrictions are eased the R-number will increase.
“We must keep in mind that when these strict measures are eased, the social contacts will increase and then the R-number will increase. It’s a law of nature. The question is how much it rises. And it is very important that it does not exceed 1”, he told VG.
Norway recently passed one million vaccinations and Nakstad believes that there is still a long way to go before the country reaches herd immunity.
“If this virus in not to be able to spread at all, then very-many-and-ninety percent must be vaccinated. It’s pure maths. But we can live well with the virus spreading a little, as long as those infected do not become seriously ill, it does not burden our society and the vast majority are well protected,” he said.