By Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche
OSLO -Norway will further tighten restrictions in a bid to limit an expected surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told news agency NTB on Monday.
“The situation is serious. The spread of infection is too high and we have to take action to limit this development … Omicron changes the rules,” he said.
The prime minister’s office scheduled a news conference for 1900 GMT on Monday where Stoere will be joined by Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol and other government officials.
Norway is setting record highs both in terms of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, partly due to the spread of the Omicron variant of the virus.
In a risk assessment released on Monday, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) recommended the government moved quickly.
“A lack of action now could lead to large negative consequences for society, not just for health services and municipalities,” the FHI said.
Unless effective measures are established, the nation of 5.4 million people risks having between 90,000 and 300,000 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis from early January, the FHI added.
The government on Dec. 7 introduced a cap on the number of visitors allowed in private homes and shortened the hours bars and restaurants can serve alcohol, but additional regulation is now required.
“The situation concerns us more than it did previously,” Line Vold, the FHI‘s head of infection control and emergency preparedness, told public broadcaster NRK.
“We think Omicron will be the dominant variant in the coming days … We need to quickly introduce further restrictions.”
New regulations could come later on Monday, newspaper VG reported, citing unnamed sources.
To speed up vaccination with booster doses, the health ministry has asked Norway’s armed forces as well as pharmacies to assist in the inoculation campaign, VG reported.