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COVID-19

Norway probes Omicron Covid outbreak after Oslo Christmas party

Norwegian officials said on Thursday that dozens of people had tested positive for Covid after a Christmas dinner in the capital Oslo, and the Omicron variant had been detected.

A person in PPE with a Covid-19 test swab in their hand.
The first case of the Omicron Covid-19 variant has been detected in Norway. Pictured is a person with a Covid-19 test in their hand. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Only vaccinated people were allowed into the event last Friday evening at an Oslo restaurant, with media reports saying roughly 120 people had been there.

“We have up to 50 who have tested positive with a PCR as well as about 10 with rapid tests,” city official Tine Ravlo told local media.

“So far, one person has been diagnosed with Omicron and more cases are expected,” Oslo municipality announced in a statement.

“Active tracing is under way to limit the possibility of contamination and prevent a larger outbreak.”

If the Omicron variant were to be detected in all of them, this would be one of the largest known outbreaks of the new variant in Europe.

And if all the diners were confirmed to have been vaccinated, it would raise questions about the effectiveness of the jabs against the new variant.

Another Oslo official Jorunn Thaulow added that the high proportion of positive tests was “an indication that this is a contagious variant, no doubt about it”.

Norway has extended the isolation period for people who have tested positive for the Omicron variant to seven days and increased the quarantine period for their relatives to 10 days.

The Scandinavian country, which has seen a recent rise in the number of Covid infections, hospitalisations and deaths, reported on Wednesday the first four cases of the Omicron variant.

Separately two cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant were registered in Øygarden Municipality, western Norway, on Wednesday. 

Mayor of Øygarden Municipality Tom Georg Indrevik said that the two people who tested positive for that variant had recently travelled from South Africa. 

Indrevik added that the municipality had been in contact with health authorities and was taking the matter seriously. 

“We have been in contact with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) over the weekend, and extra precautions have been taken with regard to those who are infected with the Omicron variant,” he said. 

Shortly after the first two cases were reported, two probable cases were reported in Ullensaker, east Norway, which is the municipality where Oslo Airport Gardermoen is located.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said that preliminary analysis indicated that the infections were probably the Omicron variant. 

“The people in question came by plane to Oslo Airport and have been in quarantine hotels at Gardermoen since arrival. They travelled from South Africa to Norway on two different planes between 26th and 28th November,” NIPH said in a statement.

Broadcaster TV2 reports that several municipalities have contacted NIPH due to suspected Omicron cases.

“There are a number of suspected cases that are being analysed now in various laboratories in the country,” NIPH department director Line Vold told TV2. 

READ ALSO: Norway announces tighter Covid-19 isolation rules for suspected Omicron cases

Director of Health at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, Bjørn Guldvog, said the detection of Omicron in Norway is to be expected.

“It is not surprising that we have now been able to detect the first cases of Omicron infection also in Norway. Together with the NIPH and the Ministry of Health and Care Services, we will now follow the situation closely in the future,” he told public broadcaster NRK.

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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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