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Prime Minister Erna Solberg will present the government’s reopening plan to the Storting on Wednesday morning. Now, health director Bjørn Guldvog tells VG that the Norwegian Directorate of Health and FHI have submitted their professional advice to Solberg, and that he hopes the first part of the reopening can take place in May.
At the same time, Guldvog points out that this depends on several factors, such as vaccination progression and infection situation.
Assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad elaborates on what the health authorities believe is necessary before reopening is relevant.
– We must significantly reduce the level of infection, and also reduce hospital admissions. If we manage it now beyond the month of May, then there are opportunities to start reopening in parts of Norway where there is little infection, says Nakstad.
May well under 200 daily cases of infection
An important prerequisite for reaching the first step on the reopening ladder is that you no longer have ongoing outbreaks where you do not know the route of infection, Nakstad explains.
He also comes up with a number, which may serve as motivation for some.
– Then we are talking well under 200 daily cases of infection across the country as a whole, says Nakstad.
He points out that the infection rate ideally comes “really far down”, ie as far below 200 as possible. The last time infection rates were so low over time was in October last year.
– But the best thing would have been if we came much lower than that as well, because then a reopening would have minimal risk of shooting back with higher infection rates, says Nakstad.
Like Guldvog, Nakstad emphasizes that vaccination progress also plays an important role in terms of reopening. So far, just over 700,000 people have received the first dose of the vaccine.
– We see that the vaccine helps well against the spread of infection. When many adults are vaccinated, it contributes to fewer people becoming infected. But we can still have large infection rates in younger age groups, says Nakstad.
Health director Guldvog also points out to VG that at present it is not possible to know whether there will be more new and more contagious virus variants, and says this can also affect the reopening process.
– This is where the work begins
The peak of infection came in week 11, with 6,500 registered infected. There are over 900 new cases of infection every day. In the last two weeks, the infection has decreased somewhat, and so far a little over 5,500 people have been registered in the Easter week.
In Oslo, for example, infection rates have declined over Easter, but Health Councilor Robert Steen fears the decline is artificial.
Nakstad warns against placing too much emphasis on the figures from Easter. He points out that it is only when everyday life begins again that testing picks up.
– But it looks like the infection rates have flattened out, and that is a good start. But it is now that the work begins, says Nakstad.
He points out that the situation in Norway now is that the infection rates are high, and that there are a record number of covid-19 patients in hospitals, especially in Eastern Norway.
On Sunday, Minister of Health Bent Høie said that the national corona measures will be extended until 14 April.
– It is important to say that it is a plan
It is up to the government to decide which groups will be given priority in the reopening. When asked if it is realistic to start reopening Norway in May, Nakstad answers that he thinks one must spend a lot of the next two months working the infection rates really low down.
– At the same time, it is important to point out that it is too early to start that reopening now. We must significantly reduce the number of infections, and we must have good control of the infection situation in order to be able to do so.
When asked whether announcing that there is a plan for reopening can lead to some people starting to cheat with infection control measures, Nakstad answers as follows:
– It is important to tell people that there is a plan for how this can be softened in a safe way, eventually, because we are all looking forward to it. At the same time, it is important to point out that it is too early to start that reopening now. We significantly reduce the number of infections, and we must have good control of the infection situation in order to do so.
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