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What does the Delta Covid-19 variant mean for Norway’s reopening plan 

There have been several outbreaks of the Delta coronavirus variant in Norway and health authorities have said it could become the dominant strain. So, what does this mean for the country's reopening plan? 

What does the Delta Covid-19 variant mean for Norway’s reopening plan 
Could the Delta variant derail Norway's reopening plan. Photo: Kaspars Dambis Flickr.

The Delta variant was first sequenced in Norway in early May in Oslo and Viken, and as of June 15th, there have been 139 confirmed cases of the virus mutation in Norway.

The variant only accounts for around one percent of all Covid cases in Norway, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). Despite this the NIPH still considers the Delta variant a variant of concern. 

The virus has been detected in a few different places across Norway, such as Oslo, Fæeder, Trondheim, Bergen and even further north in Troms and Finnmark.

Preben Aavitsland, chief physician at the NIPH, has told newspaper VG there is a chance that the Delta strain could soon replace the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the UK, as the dominant variant in Norway. 

Part of the reason for this is that the Delta variant spreads faster than others; another reason it may become the dominant one is that research indicates that vaccines are slightly less effective against the Delta variant especially after one dose.

Research from the UK indicates that a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine only provides 33 percent protection against symptomatic illness caused by the Delta variant. However, two doses of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca will offer over 90 percent protection against the variant.

Could concerns around the variant affect the reopening?

Norwegian PM Erna Solberg has said consistently that the government will take a data over dates approach to easing Covid-19 measures. 

The government uses three checkpoints when assessing whether it will lift measures; these are the infection situation and infection rates, capacity within the health service and vaccination. 

READ MORE: REVEALED: How Norway will further relax Covid-19 vaccinations 

This means a sharp rise in infections and hospitalisations could derail the governments reopening plan or put plans to lift more measures on hold. 

Research from a risk assessment of the Delta virus by the NIPH in June found that the Delta variant was both more infectious and more likely to lead to more severe Covid-19 than the Alpha variant, which fuelled a third coronavirus wave in parts of Norway during the spring.

“The Delta variant gives more serious disease than the alpha variant and is more easily spread,” the risk assessment outlined. 

This means that the potential for the Delta variant to halt Norways reopening plan, as it has done in the UK, for example, is certainly there but, what have the experts said? 

The expert view

Preben Aavitsland, chief physician at the NIPH, has said that while the Delta strain could become the dominant strain of Covid in Norway as early as July, he isn’t worried because more and more people are being vaccinated. 

“We are currently not too worried about the consequences of it taking over, even if it happens in July. By the end of July, most people over 45 will be fully vaccinated,” he told VG

“We must expect some spread, but as it looks now, we can hope that this variant will not be a major threat. But we must emphasise that there is some uncertainty, and we will follow developments closely,” he added. 

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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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