Expert: – The measures are too confusing, it is too little, and it is too late

The corona measures in Norway were removed on Saturday 25 September. The infection was low, and the population was well protected against serious disease through vaccination.

– The Conservative government conveyed the good news that now society could reopen, without telling us clearly that the virus is still among us. That was the first mistake, because now we are in the fourth wave, without most people seeming to have gotten it, says Steinar Westin, professor of social medicine at NTNU.

He also reacts to the fact that the new government has not put in place any more measures to reverse the trend.

– The measures are too confusing, it is too little, and it is too late, Westin believes.

Fully vaccinated Britt received the corona: – Not surprising

– Must convey the seriousness

Westin believes there may be an even bigger wave of infections than we see now.

– We must first and foremost convey that it is serious, and that we can not continue to attach, squeeze and pretend that the virus is not contagious. We must return to greater caution, he believes.

MOUTH BINDING: Steinar Westin believes that mouth bandages are one of the most effective measures to prevent infection. Photo: Private

When there is a lot of infection in society, more people risk becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalization. The hospitals have already sounded the alarm that they are at the breaking point.

– We can not continue to drive rough with the hospitals, says Westin.

Especially in densely populated cities, he believes the government should introduce measures. He does not understand that the new government does not see this need.

– When the Minister of Health does not come up with anything other than that we should stop shaking hands, then it is bad. Then she does not convey the seriousness we face, the professor believes.

Westin believes much can be done without resorting to very intrusive measures. He points out face masks as very effective, in addition to considering more extensive use of home office.

MOUTHBIND: Bergen is among the cities that have reintroduced the use of mouthpieces.  Photo: Geir Johnny Huneide / TV 2

MOUTHBIND: Bergen is among the cities that have reintroduced the use of mouthpieces. Photo: Geir Johnny Huneide / TV 2

– We have to use some of the knowledge we really have about what is needed. If everyone is good, and we lift in droves, then we can manage to reverse the development, he says.

Considering stricter measures

On Thursday, the Minister of Health announced that the government is working on a new corona strategy, which will be presented on tuesday.

– We are revising the strategy for dealing with the pandemic. In addition, we are continuously considering whether we should introduce stricter and more intrusive measures, says Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol (Labor) to TV 2.

At the same time, she emphasizes that the government has introduced national measures during the autumn, in addition to the large cities having decided on measures locally.

– The high infection rates worry us, and if the development continues, the pressure on the health service will increase. Every day we look for good opportunities to stop the infection, in close dialogue with the municipalities that have outbreaks, says Kjerkol.

ASSESSES: Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol (Labor Party) says that the government is closely following the development of the corona situation.  Photo: Goran Jorganovich / TV 2

ASSESSES: Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol (Labor Party) says that the government is closely following the development of the corona situation. Photo: Goran Jorganovich / TV 2

Hope to avoid the Christmas lockdown

Westin believes that the Christmas holiday itself does not have to be problematic considering the corona situation.

– Then most people are gathered within the family, and there is less contact outside than otherwise. The critical thing is the Christmas table season, he says.

– Is it justifiable to hold a Christmas table now with several hundred gathered indoors?

– People should think very carefully about. No one is served by infection among employees. If we take simple measures now and have increased awareness of the virus, then this can go without a new lockdown, says Westin.

MEASURES: Steinar Westin believes that simple measures and good compliance can save Christmas from closure.  Photo: Guro Asdøl Midtmageli / TV2

MEASURES: Steinar Westin believes that simple measures and good compliance can save Christmas from closure. Photo: Guro Asdøl Midtmageli / TV2

Gunhild Alvik Nyborg, who is a doctor, epidemiologist and social economist, goes further.

– With the strategy Norway follows today, a new shutdown is soon inevitable, she wrote in a column published by NRK this week.

To TV 2, she compares Norway’s corona handling with a “bus on its way down a cliff”.

– The Norwegian corona handling is like a bus, which no one controls, on its way down a cliff. The population just sits and looks out of the side windows and admires the view, without understanding where we are going, Nyborg believes.

Suggests a week of hard work

– The pandemic is not over. The only thing that stopped was the authorities’ attempt to control it, says Nyborg.

To avoid a new extensive shutdown, she highlights mass testing, face masks and frequent ventilation and better indoor ventilation.

– We must start with the most effective and least intrusive measures, such as mass testing, TISK and to prevent airborne infection. That way, we can avoid measures that lead to people being isolated or losing their jobs for as long as possible, she says.

CRITICAL: Gunhild Alvik Nyborg is critical of the fact that the government has not introduced more measures.  Photo: Silje Lunde Krosby / TV 2

CRITICAL: Gunhild Alvik Nyborg is critical of the fact that the government has not introduced more measures. Photo: Silje Lunde Krosby / TV 2

In addition, Nyborg suggests that it would have been beneficial if as many as possible voluntarily joined a charity event where we reduced the number of close contacts for a week.

– If everyone stays at home as much as possible for one week and tests themselves, then the situation will improve quickly, says Nyborg.

– Is it proportionate with such an intrusive measure when the population has participated in the vaccine initiative and is well protected through vaccines?

– Vaccines are very important, but not enough. We must have infection control measures in addition. The infection will not turn on its own. A short-term, effective contribution can prevent serious consequences for society.

She points out that hospitals have already postponed planned operations.

– We are already in a serious phase. The health service is suffocating, she says.

CHALLENGES: Several hospitals report capacity challenges.  Illustration photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB

CHALLENGES: Several hospitals report capacity challenges. Illustration photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB

– Unjustifiable

When asked if it is okay to hold a Christmas table now, Nyborg is clear on what she means.

– Considering how much infection there is in society, and that the dark numbers with the current positivity rate seem to be enormous, any slightly larger congregation risks that at least one is infected. Therefore, I believe that holding a Christmas table now, without infection control measures, is unjustifiable.

It is up to the municipalities whether they introduce local measures, which, for example, will affect the extent to which it is possible to carry out a Christmas table.

Nyborg believes that it is reprehensible that the municipalities are largely left to themselves when they are to assess measures, without clear guidelines from national health authorities.

– It is likely to be the ugliest winter in Europe so far, if people do not start to take this seriously and the pandemic comes under control, says the epidemiologist.

Rejects full shutdown

Vaccine researcher and immunologist Gunnveig Grødeland disagrees that the development of infection indicates that we must introduce stricter measures.

– We do not need to reverse the development of infection, it is the consequence of infection that we should be concerned about. For most people, the vaccine provides good protection against serious illness, which is important. No matter what we do, the oldest and most vulnerable will be at risk of getting coronary heart disease or other respiratory diseases, she says.

THREAT: Vaccine researcher Gunnveig Grødeland emphasizes that corona is first and foremost a threat to the elderly and non-vaccinated.  Photo: Kim Jarle Johansen / TV2

THREAT: Vaccine researcher Gunnveig Grødeland emphasizes that corona is first and foremost a threat to the elderly and non-vaccinated. Photo: Kim Jarle Johansen / TV2

She also does not believe that there is reason to believe that we end up in a situation of full closure, like other European countries.

– We have higher vaccine coverage in the population, so it is not comparable.

She believes the main challenge in Norway now is the situation with several outbreaks of respiratory viruses at the same time, which creates capacity challenges in hospitals.

– We must initiate measures that prevent the hospitals from completely collapsing, which at the moment may require that local infection control measures be introduced locally. In the long run, however, it is important to look at, for example, increasing the basic staff in the intensive care unit, she says.

The researcher therefore sees nothing in the way of adults gathering for Christmas dinners, as long as it is within the local corona measures.

– This is a disease that is mainly a threat to the elderly and non-vaccinated, and the vaccine significantly reduces the threat to the elderly. Infection will always be in society, but the consequence is now usually a cold for adults who have been fully vaccinated, she says.

More extensive testing

Professor and molecular immunologist, Anne Spurkland, also does not think a new lockdown will be necessary.

She believes the most important thing now is that those over the age of 65 are vaccinated with a refresher dose.

– Hopefully we will see the effect of a refreshing dose for those over 65 in good time before Christmas, says Spurkland.

QUICK TESTS: Anne Spurkland believes that a third dose for the oldest and more use of quick tests are good measures now.  Photo: Bjørn Roger Brevik / TV 2

QUICK TESTS: Anne Spurkland believes that a third dose for the oldest and more use of quick tests are good measures now. Photo: Bjørn Roger Brevik / TV 2

Had she herself been Minister of Health, she is clear on what she would have introduced.

– I would have run on with quick tests, and made them freely available. I would ask everyone to get tested before social gatherings, and stay home if you are ill or test positive for a quick test, says Spurkland.

She believes this phase of the pandemic is more difficult than ever before.

– It is difficult because most people who want it have already received protection through vaccines. Nevertheless, we are experiencing increased spread of infection and pressure on the health care system, says the professor.

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