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HEALTH

Norwegian government proposes increased financial support for kids’ glasses

Parents will be able to claim more financial support when purchasing childrens' glasses in Norway under a recently announced government proposal.

A child taking an eye test.
The government has proposed increasing the support scheme for children's' glasses. Pictured is a girl taking an eye test. Photo by nrd on Unsplash.

Norway’s government has announced a proposal that will see parents offered more financial support when they purchase prescription glasses for children. 

“The glasses support scheme will give children and families who need it help to get good glasses,” Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion, Marte Mjøs Persen, said in an announcement.

The previous support scheme was rolled back by the last government in 2020. However, the current government pledged to introduce a new support scheme when it was elected last year. 

Up to 140,000 children could benefit from the revised scheme, the government has said. 

Under the scheme, families could be reimbursed up to 75 percent of the cost of a pair of prescription lenses for a child. There will be five different rates, with the support depending on the strength of the glasses bought. 

Those who apply for the support will have the money then paid into their account to help pay for the costs before purchase or as a reimbursement after the spectacles have been bought. Parents will need to apply to NAV for support. 

Once the scheme leaves consultation, the government hopes to have it in place by the beginning of August. 

Kids under 18 will be eligible. However, those who just need reading glasses will be excluded from the scheme. 

The bill is expected to pass through parliament as even though the current government is a minority one, it will have support from the Socialist Left Party (SV) for the scheme. 

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HEALTH

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

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