Monday, January 17

Changed bar stop assessment after the Aker Brygge Christmas table

SUBJECT DIRECTOR: Frode Forland is the subject director of FHI.

In December, liquor stoppage jumped up on the list of measures that FHI believes have a “significant” effect against infection. That was after the omikron eruption on Louise.

– There are uncertainties regarding the effect, and it is difficult to be able to quantify. But this is also about using the overall knowledge base, and the best judgment. However, it is known to everyone that alcohol affects our behavior, the meter tends to be shorter and the voice higher with increasing alcohol content, says Frode Forland in FHI.

It has stormed around the liquor ban that was introduced before Christmas to get control of the situation with a new virus mutant. Both the nightlife and restaurant industry, mayors and parliamentary representatives, have called for softening – and demand answers on what the basis is.

The government introduced a bar stop based on what they describe as clear professional advice from NIPH and the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

When FHI delivered their recommendations to the government before the comprehensive package of measures that came in December, bar stops had been moved up from a list of measures that have a “moderate” effect, to the list of measures that have a “significant” effect. But it was not elaborated on the basis why it was moved.

This is what they know.

Therefore, they changed the description

When NIPH provided professional advice to the government before the last major package of measures in December, they classified stop drinking as a measure with a “significant effect”. It has previously been listed as a measure with a “moderate effect”.

FHI confirms that the bar was moved to the list after the outbreak at the nightclub Louise.

– The reason why the liquor ban was moved from being considered to have moderate to significant effect, was that we got the omikron variant and saw that it was much more contagious, and that it was transmitted with great force in such a context, says Frode Forland in FHI to VG.

What he is referring to is the outbreak at the nightclub Louise. There, FHI conducted a detailed investigation of the outbreak together with the City of Oslo, and published also results from research internationally.

NIPH conducted a detailed investigation of the outbreak together with Oslo Municipality, and published also results from research internationally.

– Does that mean that it is a Christmas table without restrictions that has led to a full stop to drinking?

– No, that means that we had indications from many countries that omicron was much more contagious and could be as serious as the delta variant. The outbreak at Aker Brygge showed this in that 70 per cent of those present were infected, even though they had been fully vaccinated.

– So it was omikron that changed it?

– There is no change when it comes to the pouring itself, but with the danger situation associated with the spread of a variant we did not know the seriousness of, says Forland.

But why did FHI think that it had stopped drinking moderate effect on the spread of infection, before the outbreak that spread so rapidly on Louise?

It is mostly based on experience with infection tracking and outbreaks in the municipalities, according to Forland. He says there have been 30 major outbreaks related to restaurants, bars and restaurants that have been reported to FHI in the first nine months of 2021, and that it is among the top six places for outbreaks.

– Have you compiled the experience from infection detection in the municipalities in any studies?

– We have conducted an experience review of outbreaks and measures, but have not looked specifically at liquor stoppages. All experiences are discussed along the way when in contact with the municipalities. So we have detailed knowledge of it, but it is mostly through meetings, conversations and discussions, he says.

– Do you have studies or data on infection in the home, if more people gather there socially?

– No, we do not have data on that, and that is a counter-argument. But we believe that stop drinking reduces the overall mobility in society, and that fewer people gather privately. Most people want to follow the advice that applies, says Forland, who also points out that there is less chance of meeting strangers at a social gathering at home.

Refers to two studies

During the pandemic, FHI believes that they have received too little research on measures because the system has not been set up for it, and they have pointed out several times where they have not been successful when they have applied to carry out studies.

Forland says that FHI has not made any attempt to design a study on liquor stopping.

– If we were to randomize municipalities for this purpose, we would have to find some municipalities that were more knowledge-hungry than beer-thirsty. But we have not proceeded with randomized studies (where some municipalities get a liquor stop and others do not, journ.anm.), Because this would probably be very difficult. Then we had to have consent to participate from everyone who lives in the municipality.

There are, however and register study FHI has done, which is specifically about stopping drinking as a measure. In that study, they found that the infection was reduced at a full stop of drinking – but also that there was not much difference between that and a stop of drinking at 22.00.

The infection also decreased in the municipalities that did not have a liquor ban, Forland points out.

– This study fails to distinguish the effect of bar stops compared to other measures that were implemented at the same time, he says.

He also refers to one French modeling study. It finds that a stop to drinking gives about a 10 percent decrease in the rate of infection – about the same magnitude as it finds that school closure gives. But the study has only looked at the complete closure of bars and restaurants.

– How much emphasis have you placed on that study?

– It is the overall knowledge base that lies behind our advice.

In addition, Forland says that FHI is aware that the comprehensive package of measures that have been introduced has led to reduced contact between people, and thus less infection.

– Stop drinking is usually included in a package with other measures that provide social distancing. There are good studies that show that a total package that reduces contact reduces infection, he says.

The burden of action

In the professional advice to the government, NIPH also discusses what is the knowledge base when it comes to assessing the costs and benefits of the measures against each other – ie the burden of measures.

FHI writes that they are based on a working note from the Ministry of Finance from January 2021. It points to lost value creation, in addition to reduced access to social meeting places as negative consequences.

– FHI has also published one Public health report for 2021, where we look at the social negative consequences of the pandemic, including the impact on social conditions, working life and mental health, says Forland.

In the academic basis, FHI also writes that they are based on Holden Committee, which analyzed the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic in three rounds, and submitted the latest report in March 2021.

In November, FHI proposed that a committee be set up to assess the costs and benefits of the measures in a new situation where, among other things, the population has been vaccinated, but this has not yet been reduced.

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