New anti-Corona measures after all

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After weeks of rising Corona infection in Norway, and dubious new records set just in the past few days, the Norwegian government is finally imposing some new national virus containment measures. The government will also offer a third vaccination booster shot to everyone over age 18 during the course of next year.

The government held another press conference Friday to announce new Corona containment measures after weeks of rising infection. From left: Dr Espen Rostrup Nakstad of the state health directorate, Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol and Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party, and Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, head of the public health institute FHI. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Ingrid Brandal Myklebust

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had claimed as late as Wednesday that new national measures to halt the spread of the Corona virus “weren’t the answer.” By Friday he’d changed his mind, while still stressing that the goal is to maintain “normal everyday life with higher preparedness.”

He denied any waffling on the issue, claiming that his government has been “closely following” infection and hospitalization rates “day by day.” They’d worsened again from Wednesday to Friday. He also maintains that local governments are best at determining what’s needed in their regions. Now they’ll be better able to set their own rules and requirements for access to public places.

Støre noted how several cities from Tromsø in the north to Trondheim in central Norway and Oslo in the south had all reported new infection records this week. His government thus decided to allow local governments around the country to start requiring so-called “Corona certificates” for admission to a wide variety of public events and places like bars, concert halls, sporting events, cinemas and theaters. The certificates, available through the state’s online health service helsenorge.no, will flash green on smart phones only if the carrier is fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had claimed just two days ago that new national measures “weren’t the answer,” but things changed between Wednesday and Friday. At left, Health Minister Invgild Kjerkol. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/ Ingrid Brandal Myklebust

Their use, according to Støre and his health minister Ingvild Kjerkol, can hinder the spread of infection and help the country avoid any new shutdowns, demands for social distancing or limits on crowd numbers.

“Now that everyone has been offered vaccine, it’s easier to see that use of Corona certificates can limit infection,” Støre said. Norwegians who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated will also risk the consequences of that decision by perhaps not being allowed access to various public arenas where Corona certificates may soon be required.

The government is also sharpening testing requirements “to limit the spread of infection and protect the most vulnerable amongst us.” As of Wednesday next week (November 17) all those who haven’t been vaccinated and live with someone who’s been infected will be obligated to get tested even if they have no symptoms. Testing obligations will also apply to all unvaccinated “close contacts” over the age of 18. Kjerkol admitted that it will be difficult for the government to enforce that, “but it will be their civic duty to comply” and test themselves “every day for a week” with self-testing or every other day with PCR testing.

It’s also highly recommended that vaccinated close contacts of someone who’s tested positive to the Corona virus should also get tested. Health care personnel who have declined vaccinations should also test themselves regularly and use face masks at all times.

Third booster shots for all adults
Both Støre and Kjerkol encouraged more testing, especially at the onset of any Corona-like symptoms even though they may just indicate a common cold. They also implored all Norwegians to get vaccinated, and confirmed that they’ll be offering third booster shots not only to those age 65 and over but also to everyone over 18.

“Vaccination is the most important protection we have against Corona,” Støre said. “Infection will linger amongst us for several more years, and there’s a lot we can do to hinder its spread, but we need the protection vaccinations can give.” He said his government had listened to the recommendations of health care authorities and will now launch plans so the entire adult population can get a third dose. Støre claimed that would not interfere with Norway’s contributions to vaccination programs in poor countries.

No new border controls, yet
Kjerkol said the government was also examining measures to hinder imported infection. Borders are unlikely to close again, but Norway may start requiring registration of travelers arriving in the country and testing upon arrival.

“We don’t have everything in place for that yet, but will get back to it as quickly as we can,” Kjerkol said. Justice Minister Emilie Mehl, who’d be in charge of any reimposition of border restrictions, was not present at Friday’s press conference.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund