'Concerning' Omicron variant could lead to tighter Covid-19 rules in Norway
Norway's health chiefs say that there is reason to be concerned about the recently discovered Omicron variant, with the government keeping new measures under review.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said in a risk assessment that it is probable that the Omicron variant, recently identified in South Africa, has already made its way to the Nordic country.
In comments to public broadcaster NRK, director of NIPH Camilla Stoltenberg said the new variant was a cause for concern.
"Yes, we need to be concerned. It is the Norwegian Institute of Public Health's job to be concerned in a professional way, all the time, and assess what can happen, and what the worst scenarios for what can happen are," Stoltenberg told NRK.
"It seems that it is more contagious, perhaps significantly more contagious. It is uncertain whether it causes serious illness and how the vaccines work against it," she added.
The new Covid-19 Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk globally, the World Health Organization warned Monday, stressing that uncertainties remained about how contagious and dangerous the strain was.
"If another major surge of Covid-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe," WHO said in a technical note, adding though that "to date, no deaths linked to Omicron variant have been reported."
Norway's health minister, Ingvild Kjerkol, said that the government was assessing measures to slow the spread of the variant, which has yet to be recorded in Norway.
"We have a close and ongoing dialogue with the NIPH about the development. The Omicron variant has not yet been found in Norway, but it is possible that it has come here without it being detected. We implemented several measures on Friday and will continuously assess whether there is a need for further measures," Kjerkol told newswire NTB.
A flight ban on several southern African countries was introduced this weekend. In addition to isolation, quarantine hotel stays are required for anyone arriving from those areas.
Stoltenberg said that the health authority has considered advising the government to introduce further measures.
"We are more open to further measures," she said.
The NIPH, along with the Norwegian Directorate of Health, would pass on its professional advice to the government on Monday, and decisions on possible measures would come "soon", Stoltenberg added.