The new Omicron strain of the Corona virus continues to sweep through Norway, setting even more infection records just as Norwegian hospitals are also filling up with Corona patients who refused to be vaccinated. Government officials at all levels are now pleading with everyone to get vaccinated, to at least ward off serious illness and death.
More than 6,000 new confirmed Corona cases were registered overnight and hospital admissions have now hit a level that deeply worries health authorities. Public health institute FHI reported Wednesday that a “considerable” number of them are now patients who refused to be vaccinated, with many of them under intensive care and on respirators.
The situation is so worrisome that Norway’s largest hospital, Ullevål in Oslo, will no longer allow visitors unless they obtain special permission. Only partners of those giving birth and parents or guardians of patients under 18 or unable to make themselves understood can enter hospital buildings because of the infection risk.
The restrictions come just as hospitals are also seeing an increase in the rise of serious influensa cases. Norway’s flu season got off to a later start this year and many more have received flu shots than usual, but now more are falling ill enough to need hospital care.
Full lockdown threat
The burden especially on intensive care units is setting off calls for a full-scale lockdown nationwide, beyond all the restrictions announced on Monday. There already are more people in the hospital than at any point during the pandemic, and the highly contagious Omicron situation keeps spreading.
“The infection situation is now very serious, not just in Oslo, but in all of Norway and Europe,” says Robert Steen, the top politician in charge of health issues in the capital. “We’ve never seen the speed at which infection is spreading earlier in the pandemic.” He noted that it’s only been three weeks since health officials were alerted to the Omicron variant that had been discovered in South Africa, and now it’s the dominant threat.
“It’s more important than ever that we take care of one another,” Steen told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday. “We understand everyone is exhausted now.”
Others are blaming the restrictions on those who refused to be vaccinated, since it’s the burden on hospital capacity that often prompts the strictest anti-Corona measures. When they get infected, they can become so much sicker than those who are vaccinated and thus fill up the intensive care wards. Resentment is rising in Norway that the small percentage of those who’ve refused vaccinations are now spoiling things for everyone else.
Even as fears rose of more bankruptcies, because of how bars, restaurants, theaters and other venues for social gatherings have been forced to close, both parents and teachers all over Norway were calling on officials to also close schools. One teacher in Sunnmøre who’s in isolation after falling ill herself said the spread of infection can otherwise ruin the Christmas holidays for many families.
“The worst thing that can happen is that the infection we’re seeing now will continue and more and more will be stuck in isolation, too, or quarantine,” Jannike Roaldsand told state broadcaster NRK. She can well understand that many parents want to keep their children home in order to avoid Omicron.
Several school districts around the country have decided to close early, before the actual school holidays begin from December 22. Oslo officials requested a switch to digital instruction and home schooling, and finally won approval from city officials on Wednesday. Now there’s pressure on the state government to close schools nationwide.