Norway registers record number of new Covid-19 cases

Norway recorded just under 8,000 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, a new daily infection record for the country and over 2,500 more than the previous day.

Pictured is a Covid-19 test being prepared.
Norway has recorded it's highest ever daily number of Covid-19 infections. Pictured is somebody preparing a test swab. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

A record 7,921 Covid-19 cases were reported for Tuesday, the highest daily figure that Norway has recorded throughout the pandemic.

The new record surpasses the previous highest daily total of 6,003 infections, recorded on December 14th 2021, by almost 2,000. Tuesday’s figure is also 3,219 more than the same day last week.

The pandemic-high figures come after the government and health authorities warned earlier this week that the country should expect a sharp rise in infections in January as people return to their everyday lives following the Christmas period.

Tuesday’s record high daily infection total is unsurprising, according to immunologist and professor of medicine at the University of Oslo Anne Spurkland.

“It is completely expected. I really think these are low numbers because there can be a lot of underreporting. I think the wave (of infection) is bigger than what we can see right now,” Spurkland told public broadcaster NRK.

Espen Nakstad, assistant director of health at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, earlier said the number of people currently infected with Covid-19 was probably significantly higher than official figures would indicate due to ‘dark numbers’ or unreported cases.

“We probably have significant dark numbers in Norway. It is difficult to estimate exactly, but it could be around 50 percent,” he told NRK.

READ ALSO: Covid to hit everyday life in Norway throughout winter, warns PM

A new record was also set in capital city Oslo, with 1,771 new infections on Tuesday, the highest in the city throughout the pandemic.

Spurkland said the situation in Norway was similar to other countries around Europe.

“It tells me that the situation in Norway is comparable to other countries where we have seen a sharp increase in infection. We will probably have to accept that more people will be infected in the coming weeks,” she explained.

A comparison of the seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases across 9 countries, including Norway,

Source: Our World In Data

Norway currently has one of the lowest daily averages of Covid-19 infections per million residents, with an average of 775 cases being reported per million people. Only Austria and Germany have lower averages, according to figures collated by Our World In Data.

Norway’s average is also significantly below Denmark’s infection rate of around 3,000 daily cases per million and slightly behind Sweden’s seven-day average of 888 cases per per million people.

However, Norway’s seven-day rolling average is expected to rise in the coming days and weeks as the number of reported infections increases as more people test following the Christmas and New Year holidays and return to day-to-day lives.

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.