Norway is looking to South Africa to get omikron answers that can open the country.
The reports from hospitals in both South Africa, Denmark and the United Kingdom indicate that the sky-high infection does not lead to an equal proportion of patients being admitted to the intensive care units.
For the time being, it seems that Norwegian hospitals do not get many intensive care patients in relation to the pressure of infection. On the other hand, there are few patients, and FHI wants more data from countries that are further ahead in the omikron wave before Norway can be reopened:
– We must know who ends up in intensive care units, because the intensive care capacity will to a large extent be decisive for whether the health service can handle a large wave in Norway. It is probably possible to handle an increase in hospital admissions, but it is clearly a problem if the intensive care capacity is challenged, says vaccine manager Geir Bukholm at the department to VG.
Looking towards South Africa, who first discovered the omicron and warned the world, will be important to be able to get as many details as possible when the wave hits Norway:
– Now we are starting to see contours of what may happen in Norway, so answers from South Africa will be more valuable: We need more details about risk groups, what is crucial for the health service to be able to handle a large infection pressure .
Has notified changes in the measures
On December 13, the government launched several new corona measures. They introduced, among other things, bar stops throughout the country, a sharp tightening of home offices and events – and a yellow level in schools.
It has been notified changes in the measures on Friday 14 January. To VG on Sunday, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that he hopes the nightlife is among the players that can look more optimistic about life after this date, now that one begins to acquire more knowledge about the omicron variant.
– We listen to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health, but also to what we hear from industry organizations, trade unions and individual actors that I talk to, he said, among other things.
This can be compared
NIPH is now working to map how the omicron variant will affect the epidemic in Norway. All indications are that it causes milder disease than delta in the vaccinated, but the institute has been clear that the variant can still present problems if it has such a much better ability to spread in a vaccinated population than delta.
– Data that say something about the course of the disease in non-immunized people, both unvaccinated and those who have not had the infection, would have been worth their weight in gold, says Bukholm.
This applies to children, adults, the elderly and medical risk groups.
– What is comparable and not between Norway and South Africa?
– The composition of the population is different. There are both ethnic differences, differences in age distribution, nutritional status and incidence of other infectious diseases – South Africa has a younger population; in parts of the population there is malnutrition, high incidence of tuberculosis and HIV.
Another difference is the way the two populations have immunological protection against SARS-Cov2: The health authorities in South Africa estimate that around 70/80 percent of the population has an immune protection, most through previous coronary infection. Few have taken the vaccine, although it has been available there since May last year.
In Norway, the picture is reversed: Here, FHI estimates that around 10 percent have had corona, while 70 percent of the population has protection through the vaccine.
NIPH: Measures not to be avoided
– South Africa has long said that omicron causes milder disease, why have you not listened to it before?
– We have definitely listened to it, and have been interested all the time in following the development there. But researchers and doctors from South Africa warned early on to draw premature conclusions based on their results, precisely because the South African and European populations had great differences. We have said that we need our own countries’ data to see how this disease manifests itself in our country. Because we know that the conditions are not necessarily directly transferable from South Africa.
– We have thought it is a positive signal, but have wanted to be sure.
Bukholm rejects that Norway could have released some of the strict measures if they had listened to South Africa before:
– No, absolutely not. We have always been clear that even with a milder course, a disease with as much spread as omikron can challenge the capacity of the health service, both in the municipalities and in the hospitals. The most important thing has been to ensure that the health service can handle the challenges that this virus variant poses to us, and we are still unsure of how high infection curves the health service can handle.