Corona infection rates skyrocket

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Norwegian health authorities were sounding new alarms on Monday, after another weekend with record-high increases in new cases of Corona infection. They describe the situation as “serious” and warn that it’s critical to keep the spread of the virus under control.

Dr Espen Nakstad now describes the Corona infection situation in Norway as “serious” again, and claims that it’s critical not to let it spin out of control. PHOTO: Regjeringen.no

“We have to turn this trend around and we have to do it now!” exclaimed Dr Espen Nakstad, assistant director of the state health directorate. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the popular and normally mild-mannered Nakstad thinks the Corona situation in Norway now “isn’t far from where we were in March.”

Fully 2,726 new cases have been confirmed during the past seven days leading up to Monday. Norway’s total number of people infected with Covid-19 stood at 20,634 on Monday morning. There’s also been a spike in the number of people needing to be hospitalized, with 63 admitted as of Sunday night. The death toll also rose slightly, to 282, compared to 281 on Friday.

Health officials in Oslo, meanwhile, reported Monday morning that they’d registered 92 new cases overnight, 14 more than on Sunday. The Stovner district on Oslo’s east side replaced Frogner in the west as the area of the Norwegian capital with the highest infection rate, equivalent to 288.1 cases per 100,000 residents during the past 14 days.

A major increase in testing explains much of the increase in confirmed cases. Line Vold of the state public health institute FHI nonetheless shares Nakstad’s concern. “The development worries us,” Vold told NRK Monday morning. “It’s serious because we see a rapid development with rising infection numbers.”

Vold also expects more hospitalizations, more need for respirators and more deaths in the weeks ahead. “We estimate that we’re detecting around 40 percent of infection cases in society now,” Vold said. In March, when the Corona crisis hit, authorities think they only detected around 10 percent because there was much less testing capacity at the time.

Line Vold of the state public health institute FHI (Folkehelseinstituttet) is as worried now as she was last spring. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Eirin Larsen

“What worries us now is the trend here, with such rapid increases in the numbers of those infected,” Vold told NRK. The numbers have indeed skyrocketed in the past few weeks, and even in the past few days.

The numbers remain low compared to most other countries, several of which have gone into lockdown again around Europe, but Norway’s total population is also much lower and travel restrictions have been back in place for many weeks. Nakstad said he’s especially worried about how the numbers of people now needing to be hospitalized have soared recently, from single-digit levels late last summer to more than 60 now.

New and expanding outbreaks continue to be reported, from Drammen in the south to Harstad in the north. New outbreaks were also reported within various defense forces: US Marines based at Setermoen in Northern Norway are believed to be behind 21 positive test results at the military camp in Bardu. Six soldiers have tested positive at the Rena camp in Østerdalen during the weekend, and six at the Royal Guard’s camp in Oslo. The positive tests have forced around 1,000 defense personnel into quarantine at Setermoen alone, confirmed an Army spokesman on Sunday.

Norwegian officials tightened Corona regulations last week. Health Director Bjørn Guldvog confirmed to newspaper VG during the weekend that stricter rules are under consideration, including a proposal to set up various infection zones in Norway based on infection risk levels. Guldvog stressed, however, that Norway already has tailored infection rules to various areas so that residents in areas with low or even zero cases of Covid-19 don’t need to unduly be restricted. Current regulations are strictest in Oslo, where face masks are now mandatory in most public places and residents are asked to limit social contact with no more than 10 people per week.

See the government’s own version of the current national restrictions here (external link to the government’s own website).

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund