Norwegian hospitals were warned by the state public health institute FHI on Wednesday that yet another wave of the Corona virus may crash over them this winter. The new Omicron variant is still spreading rapidly, with at least a million Norwegians likely to be infected by June.
Various models compiled by FHI (Folkehelse-institutt) show that Norway can undergo a fifth wave of Corona-related infection, probably in late January or early February. Hospitals may need to admit as many as a thousand people every day.
In FHI’s worst-case scenario, as many as 3 million Norwegians may be infected this winter, more than half the country’s entire population. The new Omicron variant is to blame.
Uncertainty around Omicron remains high, admits FHI leader Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, also around how sick those infected may become. Some studies indicate the variant does not cause serious illness. It’s still believed to be highly contagious, though, which explains the high numbers presented in FHI’s latest scenario.
Stoltenberg was back on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevyen on Wednesday and her message was clear: “Omicron spreads quickly,” she said, and it’s all but impossible to halt it.
FHI’s most optimistic scenario was that a million Norwegians, most all of them already vaccinated, will be infected by June, with an infection peak reached in May. Around 125 Norwegians may need to be admitted to hospital every day, a figure that would further strain hospital capacity.
In FHI’s more pessimistic scenario, as many as 3 million Norwegians will be infected, 1,000 of them needing hospitalization. The infection wave may begin in late January, Stoltenberg said, and there may be need for tougher restrictions than those already spoiling Christmas holiday gatherings for many.
Restrictions likely to last
Asked whether health authorities should just let the pandemic roll, without intervention and new restrictions from state authorities, Stoltenberg responded with a clear and firm “no” because then “there will be far too many people sick at the same time.”
Government officials have decided as expected to extend current Corona containment measures until January 14, when another evaluation will be made. According to FHI’s current and disappointing prediction, it’s likely restrictions not only will be extended once again but also made even more strict. Hopes for a New Year with life returning to normal appear to have been dashed.
Stoltenberg said vaccination programs must continue, since they still offer the best chance of protecting people from serious illness. “We still have to get vaccinated, follow the anti-Corona measures we have now and be prepared that more may come,” Stoltenberg said.