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COVID-19

‘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.

Aker Brygge, west Oslo.
Norway's health authorities have hinted at the possibility of introducing tighter measures. Pictured is Aker Brygge. Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash

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. 

READ ALSO: Norway tightens travel rules to limit import of Omicron Covid-19 variant

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.  

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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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