Norway registers over 20,000 daily Covid-19 cases for the first time

A record 24,429 Covid-19 cases were recorded in Norway on Tuesday, the first time the country has registered more than 20,000 infections in a day.

Crowds of people in Oslo.
Norway recorded more than 20,000 Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time. Pictured are crowds of people in Oslo. Photo by Nick Night on Unsplash

Norway has passed the milestone of recording more than 20,000 infections over a 24-hour period, just one week after it passed 15,000 daily cases for the first time and around two weeks after recording more than 10,000 positive coronavirus samples for the first time.

Tuesday’s figure of 24,429, a daily infection record, is 9,062 cases more than the same day a week prior.

Over the last seven days, an average of 18,110 Covid-19 infections have been registered per day. The corresponding average seven days ago was 11,180, indicating a rising infection trend.

Last week the number of weekly Covid-19 hospitalisations in Norway rose for the first time since mid-December, when admissions peaked, reversing a downtrend.

READ MORE: Why Omicron has caused an increase in Covid-19 hospitalisations in Norway

Despite soaring infections in recent weeks, Frode Forland from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health told newspaper VG on Tuesday, before the Covid-19 figures for the day were released, that it may be possible to lift some measures in the near future.

“The measures will continue to be relaxed if it goes well, and it seems to be going well,” Forland told VG.

Several measures have been eased in recent weeks, including a relaxation of the self-isolation rules and the lifting of the national alcohol ban. On Wednesday, Norway scrapped its rules on entry quarantine for all travellers.

READ MORE: Norway to scrap Covid-19 entry quarantine for all travellers

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, speaking to newspaper VG, said that the government wouldn’t rush into making any decisions when it came to Covid measures.

“Infection rates are rising, now they are around the 18,000 per day mark. It (rising infections)was expected. Admissions went down, but now they are increasing moderately. We have to follow the situation and make facilitations in line with the underlying (infection) control strategy,” he told the newspaper.

When it last announced an easing of domestic measures on January 14th, the government said it would reassess the national restrictions at the beginning of February.

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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.