Virus rules under ‘constant evaluation’

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Norwegian health officials still don’t really know whether the government’s strict Corona containment measures are working. The measures have shut down most of the country, at huge economic cost, but reflect a widespread belief that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Norwegians have already been living under lots of new rules in addition to all the official Corona containment measures that were extended on Tuesday. This warning list posted at the entrance to an Oslo grocery store is intended to halt the entry of anyone in quarantine and encourage good hand hygiene, cleanliness, distance from others and payment with bank cards only so cash won’t need to be handled. Customers are also urged to abstain from hoarding. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Morten Møst

“All indications are that the measures collectively are effective,” said Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, director of the Norwegian public health institute FHI (Folkehelse-instituttet) after the government extended the measures on Tuesday until at least after the Easter holidays.

She conceded, however, that “it’s difficult to know whether each individual measure has been effective. That’s why we’re skeptical about easing any of them before we can better judge their effect.”

All of the measures are under “constant evaluation,” and not even FHI was convinced it was necessary to close all schools and day care centers in addition to many other public venues and businesses. Stoltenberg stressed, however, that it’s “very important” to maintain the momentum of efforts to limit the spread of the virus. It’s best, she believes, to keep the measures in force when they’re already in place.

“But we should be sure to go through them and see whether they can be adjusted, or imposed in another form,” Stoltenberg said. State health director Dr Bjørn Guldvog also said “adjustments” will be under ongoing review, especially those applying to children from troubled homes who are better off at school or day care centers.

Here’s a rundown of the current and even tightened measures in place through April 13:

*** Schools and day care centers will continue to be closed.

*** A long list of businesses and public services that require close contact between people also remain closed. They include hair salons and barber shops, skin- and foot care centers, tattoo parlours, chiropractors, pysiotherapy centers and psychologists among other enterprises.

*** All sports and cultural events, along with organized athletic events both indoors and outdoors, are prohibited. Museums, concert halls, theaters and cinemas are closed. All exercise studios and training centers are also closed.

*** Most restaurants, cafés and bars are closed or limited to takeaway operations. The City of Oslo prohibited the serving of alcholic beverages from Saturday evening, after claiming that many bars weren’t following the rules of limiting patrons or keep customers at a distance from one another, but it’s still allowed in many other Norwegian cities.

*** Everyone arriving in Norway from abroad, or even from just across the borders to Sweden and Finland, must go into quarantine for 14 days.

*** Everyone who has had contact with a person infected with the Corona covid-19 virus must also go into quarantine for 14 days. Everyone testing positive for the virus must remain in isolation for 14 days.

*** All health care personnel are prohibited from traveling abroad.

*** A controversial ban on spending the night at holiday homes such as hytter (cabins) in the mountains remains in effect, spoiling traditional Easter skiing holiays for hundreds of thousands of Norwegians.

*** Border patrols were extended indefinitely.

*** All hospitals, nursing homes and other health care institutions now ban visiting, and overall access is subject to strict control. Elderly Norwegians are urged to remain inside their homes at all times and obtain help with shopping or other external errands.

*** No more than five people should be together at any time outdoors, excluding people living together in the same household.

Efforts are underway to expand testing for the virus, which is currently available only to those who are ill will Corona symptoms or have had close contact with others who’ve already tested positive for the virus.

FHI officials estimate that between 7,100 and 23,000 can already be infected without realizing it. They’ve been encouraged that daily increases in confirmed cases have been stable this week at around 200, but actual cases are believed to be much higher.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund