Norway has had among the lowest Corona infection rates in Europe, and much lower than in neighbouring Sweden. Not anymore. That changed over the weekend and on Monday, another Norwegian died, raising fears of tougher restrictions to stop the spread.
“The situation is serious,” said Bergen Mayor Roger Valhammer, who was gravely serious himself at another weekend press conference. Bergen, along with Sarpsborg and Fredrikstad in the south, had become new centers of infection in recent weeks and was home last week to the first new Corona death since August.
On Monday, however, Oslo University Hospital reported a new death as well, bringing Norway’s death toll to 266. While last week’s death toll in Bergen was tied to an elderly patient in a local nursing home, state broadcaster NRK reported that hospital officials in Oslo didn’t release any immediate details about its latest death.
Cases surpass 12,000
New statistics from the European infection control agency ECDE, meanwhile, put Norway’s infection rate at 24.8 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days. That compares to 24 relatively new cases per 100,000 residents in Sweden, reversing the neighbouring countries’ status for the first time since the Corona crisis began.
Both Norway and Sweden are now “red” countries, meaning that quarantine regulations will apply on arrival in other countries and at home. The regulations applying to the two countries alone, however, are set on a regional basis, meaning they may be more liberal regarding local border crossings.
Actual confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection, meanwhile, surpassed 12,000 in Norway during the weekend, rising by 692 just in the past seven days. Norway’s infection total of 12,154, reported by state public health institute FHI (Folkehelseinstituttet) as of Monday morning, remains much lower than Sweden’s nearly 86,000 but it’s still cause for alarm.
‘More local outbreaks’
“We’re seeing more local outbreaks,” FHI’s divisional director Line Vold said at a press conference heading into the weekend. She added that “we must plan for a new wave of infection” on a national basis.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Health Minister Bent Høie had announced just the day before that they’re ready to impose stricter Corona containment measures again if health experts recommend them. In Bergen, where 34 new cases were reported during the weekend, Valhammer appealed to the public to take existing measures seriously by following quarantine rules, remaining at a distance of at least one meter from others, using face masks on public transportation and washing hands frequently.
“We’re standing at a crossroads now,” Valhammer said. “I think Bergen residents are taking the situation very seriously.”
Norway now has a total of 14 municipalities with rising infection levels. Bergen, Fredrikstad and Sarpsborg are the biggest, but there’s also been concern, for example, in other areas of the Østfold region south and east of Oslo, and in Hamar.