Nakstad comments on infection surge in Norway: “We are still a long way from a new lockdown”

Espen Rostrup NakstadPhoto: Berit Roald / NTB

“Even though the infection is increasing in Norway, we are still a long way from a situation where the country must go into lockdown again and introduce emergency measures,” Espen Nakstad says.

The infection continues to increase rapidly in several places in the country, including Oslo, which has previously been the infection epicenter in Norway. 

On Tuesday, 311 new cases of infection were confirmed on a national basis and 72 new ones in the capital. Also, in Bergen, there are high infection rates with 48 new cases.

In large parts of Europe, countries are in a fourth wave of the pandemic, and assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad told NTB that they (note: the Health Directorate) see the start of something similar in Norway as well.

“In Norway, we also see the start of a wave that currently consists of isolated outbreaks, and which will grow if the outbreaks are not put under control very soon. The consequences of a new wave of infection depend on how many people become infected and are vaccinated in the coming weeks. So far, we do not see signs of more hospital admissions, but this may change,” he noted in an email.

Assistant director Geir Bukholm in the National Institute of Public Health (FHI) says they expect an increase in infection in the future.

“But we do not expect that it will necessarily lead to an increase in the number of people who become ill from COVID-19,” he told NTB.

A major difference

Last year around this time, there was a start of a new wave of infection. Over the autumn, the situation escalated to a social lockdown in Oslo and new, strict national measures.

However, there is a significant difference between then and now: vaccination.

This means that Norway is currently some distance away from tightening measures significantly again and shutting down society, Nakstad stated.

“It still takes a lot (note: for Norway to reach that point). So far, the vaccines seem to protect well against serious illness. Therefore, the current delta variant will be easier to handle throughout the autumn when more people have been vaccinated,” he said.

“Unvaccinated people can still become seriously ill if we do not achieve real herd immunity,” he warned.

Danger of new varieties

In its latest risk assessment of the epidemic from July 26, the FHI stated that the coronavirus would never be eradicated in Norway and the rest of the world. In the long run, the virus is expected to enter an endemic phase, not unlike the pattern of influenza.

The danger of new virus variants with properties that increase the risk of infection or increase the risk of serious illness can lead countries to lose control over the situation – again.

“We must always take this into account and be prepared for this if it leads to increased infection, increased disease burden, and increased mortality. For the delta variant, we consider that the vaccines have a good effect as protection against serious disease. Still, we want to get fully vaccinated as much as possible to get better control of the spread of the virus in society,” Bukholm said.

Nakstad says it will take more than just vaccine coverage in Norway to get into the endemic phase.

“This will only happen when the immunity of the global population is so high that the virus only spreads to a lesser extent seasonally without giving the health service major challenges. The timing of this is unclear and depends on both future mutations and the effect of the vaccination programs in the world,” Nakstad concluded.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews

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