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COVID-19

Covid-19 in Norway can now be compared to the flu thanks to vaccines, says health chief

Coronavirus can now be categorised as one of several respiratory illnesses with seasonal variation thanks to the success of the country's vaccination campaign, Geir Bukholm, infection control director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), has said. 

Covid-19 in Norway can now be compared to the flu thanks to vaccines, says health chief
Covid-19 can now be compared to flu according to the assistant director of the NIPH. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

For the past year and a half, Covid-19 has been classed as a generally dangerous disease. However, this could change soon as the assistant director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Geir Bukholm, has said the coronavirus can now be put in the same category as illnesses such as flu, common colds and RS (respiratory syncytial virus). 

“We are now in a new phase where we must look at the coronavirus as one of several respiratory diseases with seasonal variation,” Bukholm told paper VG

Last week the Ministry of Health and Social Care asked the NIPH to assess whether Covid-19 was still a dangerous disease.  

While the NIPH has yet to return its findings, its assistant director has made it clear that the danger of Covid will be downgraded. 

Covid could now be compared in severity with the likes of colds and flu because the vast majority of those at most risk of developing severe disease when infected are now fully vaccinated. 

“This is because the vast majority of those at risk are protected,” Bukholm explained. 

“And although the infection is still circulating, hospital numbers remain low. Thus, the coronavirus will not lead to a heavy burden on the health service. For those vaccinated who may become infected and develop symptoms, the vast majority will have mild cold-like symptoms.”

However, Bukholm did warn that even though Covid could now be compared with other common respiratory illnesses, the pandemic was far from over. 

READ ALSO: Norway expects more children with respiratory illnesses this winter

“The pandemic is not over as long as it exists in the world and in countries where the vaccine coverage is still low. As long as the diseases spread throughout the world, there is still a pandemic,” Bukholm cautioned. 

Last week health minister Bent Høie offered a glimpse at what Norway would look like once measures were lifted but didn’t offer a date for when restrictions would be lifted.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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