Norwegian health official: Municipalities with a lot of infection mustn’t reopen too quickly

Espen Rostrup NakstadPhoto: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB
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Assistant director of health Espen Nakstad says it is important that the municipalities don’t reopen too quickly. More responsibility will be transferred to municipalities when Norway opens up nationally.

The health authorities have been clear that the reopening could lead to more infection.

“An important premise for the national reopening is that one still holds (measures in place) locally where there is high infection pressure,” Nakstad told NTB.

“The infection will likely increase in municipalities that may choose to proceed too quickly with the reopening despite high infection rates,” he noted.

The R number

Nakstad says the increase in infection could occur because increased contact between people causes the R-number – which marks how many people one infected person infects – to increase. 

The vaccination will not reduce the R-number considerably until more people have been vaccinated, Nakstad warned.

“If, in the meantime, the infection increases a lot among unvaccinated people between 30 and 60 years of age, we will see more admissions and increased pressure on the health service in some places in the country. 

“This is something local politicians are well aware of. We hope they will include it in their assessments,” he said.

Nakstad says it is important to maintain control over the infection, even in a reopening, until all adults have been offered a vaccine dose.

More people could experience long-term problems

Otherwise, reopening can lead to people becoming seriously ill just before they should have been vaccinated.

“This is because the infection usually increases exponentially when it first begins to rise. Then we could quickly see more hospitalizations and more young people with long-term ailments (long-COVID) in a phase of the pandemic where there would be only a few weeks left before the same people would have been offered a vaccine,” Nakstad said.

He pointed out that figures from Denmark show that the numbers of inpatients do not rise much, even with the current increase in infection.

“The uncertainty in both countries is still linked to how much more spread of infection we actually get when society opens up more. People’s compliance with the local infection control guidelines will probably be very important for us to maintain control in the coming weeks,” he noted.

Real danger of mutated variants

In the case of high infection rates, there will be more mutations, and a danger that a variant appears that is resistant to the vaccines.

“This is definitely something we have considered, and it is the most important reason why we still have strict border control with testing,” Nakstad noted.

“The risk of mutation is also one of the most important reasons why infection rates should be as low as possible in all countries while vaccination is being carried out. 

“There is a real risk that we may end up behind and get new mutations in circulation that the vaccines do not work as well against,” he concluded.

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

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