Norway records highest number of Covid-19 infections in single week

Norway recorded a total of 6,328 Covid-19 cases between the 15th and 21st of March, the highest weekly number since the pandemic began, according to a report from health authorities.

Norway records highest number of Covid-19 infections in single week
Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

The weekly report from the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) which tracks Coronavirus statistics also found that 43 people were admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 – another record.

In total 202 people were admitted to hospital with coronavirus including 18 people aged between 20 and 29, the highest weekly figure for that age group during the pandemic.

Deaths were also up compared to the previous week, with nine deaths were recorded compared to five during the previous seven days. This reverses a trend of deaths falling for the past four weeks.

Some 79 percent of infections in Norway are now the B117 variant, which originated in the United Kingdom. A report from the NIPH on Monday found that people who contracted the B117 variant were 2.6 times more likely to need hospital treatment.

READ MORE: ‘A good sign’ Norway’s health chief says reason to be positive despite surge in infections

“It is serious that this new more, contagious variant, also seems to give a higher risk of hospitalisations. We are concerned about the spread of infection with this new variant,” Line Vold department director at the NIPH told broadcaster NRK.

The R Number is currently 1.3 nationally with much greater variation at local level. Overall, the number of people tested last week was down two percent with a higher proportion of those tested returning positive results.

Immigrant communities continue to be hard hit with 57 percent of all those admitted to hospital not being born in Norway. Additionally, more than one third of reported cases in Norway last week were foreign-born.

On Tuesday Norway announced tighter measures that will be in place for the Easter holidays as a result of rising coronavirus infection numbers. Despite the record numbers the infection curve isn’t as steep as it has been during previous weeks.

“It seems that the increase has become less steep, and that is hopefully a sign that there will now be a flattening (of the curve) if we continue to have such strict measures. I think that’s a good sign,” NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg told NRK radio.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”