Omicron Variant Triggers Restrictions in Norway

Norway COVID testing

Norway is looking at heightened COVID restrictions and vaccine efforts to combat the new omicron variant, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said on Monday (Dec. 13), Reuters reports.

“There is no doubt — the new variant changes the rules. That’s why we need to act fast and we need to act again,” the prime minister told a news conference. “For many this will feel like a lockdown, if not of society then of their lives and of their livelihoods.”

The government has been ramping up restrictions, including a recent ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants and closing gyms and swimming pools for a lot of people.

There are also more rules in schools.

The government has said quarantine rules would apply more liberally.

The government is planning to work with the armed forces along with pharmacies to help administer vaccines and booster doses.

The various new rules might cast doubt on the central bank’s plans to raise interest rates, which was slated to happen this week.

Reuters writes that Norway has seen record highs for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, particularly as omicron continues to spread and is likely to become the dominant variant soon.

The country’s Institute of Public Health (FHI) has warned that the county’s 5.4 million people could see around 90,000 and 30,000 new cases per day starting in January unless things are managed.

The World Health Organization has said omicron could have a “major impact” on the way the pandemic moves forward, but said it could cause milder illness in spite of its seemingly more rapid infection rate.

That said, as of early December, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said it’s too early to judge the effects. She cited patients in South Africa who might not have run the full course of their infection with omicron.

Omicron has been identified in around 60 countries, with new cases as of Dec. 10 hitting around four million new infections, with new deaths rising 10% in early December as well.

Read more: WHO: Omicron Could Have ‘Major Impact’ on Pandemic