Norway authorities unsure when foreign travel will be able to resume

Norway’s travel restrictions are unlikely to be eased before everyone above the age of 45 has been vaccinated against Covid-19, a senior health official has said.

Earlier this month, the director of infection prevention and control at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Geir Bukholm, said that travel to and from Norway could resume by the end of May.

Residents over the age of 45 years in Norway will have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine by that time, providing for a safe easing of the country’s travel restrictions, Bukholm said at the time.

“It will eventually be possible to open the borders and have normal tourist traffic. And everything related to social meetings. That could happen at the end of May, although I cannot be completely sure about it,” Bukholm said.

In the most recent vaccination scenario published by NIPH on March 12th, the cautious estimate for completion of vaccination of over-45s is the beginning of June. Meanwhile, Norway has seen an increase in coronavirus infections described by health minster Bent Høie on Wednesday as a “third wave” of the virus.

READ ALSO: Norway in ‘third wave’ of coronavirus but no new national restrictions yet

Bukholm told ABC Nyheter on Wednesday that NIPH does not have an estimate for when travel may resume and that it is dependent upon the situation with the epidemic and progression of the vaccination programme as well as the intended travel destination.

“It was certainly not the intention in the interview in question to create hope that travel will be possible at the end of May,” Bukholm said in regard to his earlier comments, which were given to newspaper VG.

The senior NIPH official stressed that his message was that changes to travel restrictions would be justified once vaccination of people over 45 years old had been completed.

“It will not be until that point that the type of travel activity which could be permitted will be reviewed,” he said.

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Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death.