Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre felt compelled to call another press conference late Thursday afternoon, after as many as 60 people were infected with the Corona virus at a company Christmas party (julebord) last week. The outbreak, believed to be the new Omicron strain, comes just after both Støre and the leader of Oslo’s city government, Raymond Johansen, had urged Norwegians to attend julebord despite weeks of rising infection.
“It’s highly probable that this is Omicron,” the chief medical officer for the Frogner area where the party was held, Dr Tine Ravlo, told state broadcaster NRK. Test results from those infected still hadn’t been fully analyzed as of midday Thursday, but the Delta strain was ruled out, and it’s been most common in Norway lately.
If the outbreak proves to be Omicron, Norway may have the dubious distinction of having the largest outbreak of the strain in the world, according to Ravlo. “We have around 50 confirmed cases after PCR tests and around 10 confirmed from quick tests,” Ravlo told NRK. Norway has already registered four confirmed cases of Omicron infection and it’s believed to be highly contagious.
The infectious Christmas party took place at the Louise Restaurant & Bar at Oslo’s popular waterfront complex Aker Brygge. All attending, 41 of whom live in Oslo, must now remain in isolation for seven days, and their closest contacts and family members must head into 10 days of quarantine, even if they’re fully vaccinated.
The party, hosted by the solar energy firm Scatec, took place in a room separated from the rest of the restaurant, but NRK reported that Louise converted at 10:30pm from a restaurant to a nightclub with other guests. At least two of them have also been confirmed as infected and more tracking of other guests was underway.
Scatec issued a press release Wednesday evening claiming that the company, which builds, owns and operates solar energy plants, had imposed what they considered to be strict infection prevention measures before the party. Everyone had to be tested in advance and only those who were vaccinated were allowed in. NRK reported that one of Scatec’s guests at the party had recently been in South Africa, where Scatec has operations.
Fully vaccinated guests infected
Dr Jorun Thaulow, head of infection tracking for Oslo’s western districts, told NRK that “we have seen this before, that very many fully vaccinated people still get infected and spread infection further.” That has disappointed many, not least health and government officials, who had believed that vaccinations provided adequate protection.
Thaulow has asked that everyone who was at the Louise Restaurant & Bar last Friday evening, November 26, to get tested. A similar call went out for all guests at another bar, the Old Irish Pub in Oslo’s Majorstuen district, on Saturday November 27, after one of its guests at a julebord tested positive.
“This is of course a demanding situation for all involved,” Ravlo told NRK. That includes Oslo’s city government and the national government, with Prime Minister Støre expected to announce more Corona-related restrictions after lots of criticism that his new government hasn’t been strict enough. Oslo, meanwhile, reported another infection record overnight, with 1,075 new confirmed cases. That’s up from the record 838 cases confirmed overnight earlier this week.