UPDATE: How could Norway's Covid-19 restrictions be tightened this week?
Following several outbreaks of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, Norway's government is considering tightening its national, regional and travel coronavirus rules, and the country's health minister said that new measures would be decided upon on Tuesday.
More Covid-19 restrictions are on their way in Norway after the country’s health minister confirmed to public broadcaster NRK that the decision on more measures would be made Tuesday.
“Tomorrow, we will come up with a new measure because we have got a situation with a lot of infection with the Delta variant. In addition, we have the Omicron variant that spread quickly,” Ingvild Kjerkol, health minister, told NRK.
Kjerkol said the measures would be noticeable in everyday life.
“There will be measures we will notice in our everyday lives,” the health minister told the public broadcaster.
She said contact reducing measures were needed due to some parts of the health service struggling with capacity.
Earlier on Monday, the minister told newspaper VG that the government and health authorities were looking at new measures.
The assessment of the current restrictions and recommendations comes after weeks of rising Covid-19 cases and several outbreaks of the recently discovered Omicron variant, which early research indicates is more infectious than other variants.
"We have control of the pandemic, but there have been several outbreaks with suspected Omicron cases. We have a regulation associated with cases where the variant (Omicron) is suspected, with longer isolation for household members. I am concerned, and we are looking at further measures regionally and nationally," Kjerkol told VG.
So far, tighter measures have been enforced in Oslo, its surrounding areas, and parts of west Norway, including Bergen.
At a national level, people have been encouraged to use face masks in certain settings, drop handshakes, and work from home for parts of the week where possible.
The health minister said that the countries health authorities were already looking at more curbs both locally and nationally.
"Now our agencies, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health, have ongoing talks to assess several regional and national measures. We are following the situation closely," she explained.
The health minister added that new measures could come this week if necessary.
"I won't rule out that more and stricter measures will come this week. We are following it (the infection situation) continuously and are in close dialogue with the professional authorities," the health minister said.
The health minister didn't say what measures could be introduced nationally or regionally. The government's infection control strategy this winter has primarily been to try and limit social contact and transmission of the disease without having to enforce stricter and more intrusive measures.
In addition, Kjerkol said that new travel rules were also being looked at both for domestic trips and international arrivals.
"We are looking at both (domestic and international rules). We have not decided anything on that but assess it based on whether there are new outbreaks. We have (already) introduced a number of entry measures for those who come to Norway," she said.
"There is a test obligation and entry registration for both the unvaccinated and vaccines and quarantine hotels for arrivals from southern Africa with a high incidence of Omicron."
The health minister could offer more solid details on the possibility of the interval between the second and third doses of Covid vaccines being reduced. Kjerkol said that health authorities were looking at the prospect of shortening the interval for those under-65 to speed up the booster program.
Currently, the interval is six months for those aged under 65 and five months for over-65s. The government was mulling over reducing the interval for under-65s to five months.