The government chooses to ask people to drop handshakes, but does not recommend wearing a bandage nationally.
This was the message from Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol (Labor Party) during today’s press conference:
– I would now encourage everyone to drop the handshake and return to the infection-free way of greeting. This will prevent the spread of infection.
Handshake is not mentioned in the health authorities’ recommendations to the government. The Norwegian Directorate of Health recommended a bandage instead.
– Why did you go for this and not for the bandage and the meter for example? This was not one of the measures mentioned in any of the professional bases?
– No, it was a call too, it is important to clarify. But now we have gradually expected to greet in other ways, so it is a low-hanging fruit to take out that gesture, Kjerkol says to VG, and adds that it can also help with other respiratory viruses.
Helps against other viruses
Through the pandemic, it has become clear that contact infection, ie transmission via hand or a surface, is less important than initially thought. It is primarily in the air that covid-19 is transmitted. When it comes to respiratory viruses such as rhino virus (cold), which is more easily transmitted via surfaces and hands, dropping handshakes can have a good effect.
The government did not follow the Health Directorate’s recommendation to introduce a national council on face masks where one can not keep the meter. However, it has been introduced as a local measure in some municipalities, such as Tromsø, Trondheim and Bergen.
– Why are you not introducing face masks now?
– Now we communicate when we come up with new measures and justify why we come up with them. We are considering face masks and other measures on an ongoing basis, but we have not made a decision to recommend or introduce it now, Kjerkol tells VG.
– To wait to see if what you have done so far has had an effect?
– We have it for ongoing assessment. Then we say when there is a recommendation nationally and a national order, she says and adds:
– It is important for us to communicate the measures we actually decide on.
FHI director Camilla Stoltenberg confirms to VG that a handshake was not an advice they gave specifically, but also says that they do not advise against it:
– We have not been directly involved in that. We were asked what we thought about it just before, so there has been no assessment of it, she says, and continues:
– But what we said was that it was in line with the advice given already in the letter on November 4 from FHI and the Norwegian Directorate of Health where we point out that thinking about how many close contacts you have and keeping your distance is something you should consider. I think it is best to ask the Minister of Health about this – it is not contrary to something we have said, but it is not something we have considered specifically.
Assistant health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad says he thinks it is not stupid to stop shaking hands for a while, because it can sharpen compliance with infection routines.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health also recommended an upward adjustment of TISK (Testing, infection tracking, quarantine, isolation), which means, among other things, that they will reintroduce the infection quarantine requirement for household members and similar relatives, regardless of vaccination status. The government did not announce such a reintroduction of quarantine at today’s press conference.
At the press conference, the government said that they tighten control for entry, at the same time as they open up for entry for all foreigners who are entitled to it under the Immigration Act. They have now also opened up for municipalities to use corona passports.
Immunologist Anne Spurkland believes that the handshake advice is more about the signal that is sent than the actual infection via the handshake:
– With regard to covid, airborne infection is probably most important. But when you also have everything else of the respiratory virus to take into account, handshake is a good piece of advice we are used to and can do for a few more months.
– Maybe a funny piece of advice
In other words, dropping the handshake can help with other viruses, such as the cold virus rhino. So it helps the total disease burden if fewer people catch a cold and have to stay at home, says Spurkland.
– It may be a bit strange advice to drop the handshake, but I think it is not so stupid, because it will also make it easier to keep your distance from people.
Spurkland believes that the government chose not to introduce face masks indoors is due to the fact that it is a more intrusive measure in restaurants and other nightclubs.