The threat of the new Omicron variant is looming in all continents with the first official death being reported in the United Kingdom as of December 13.
Fears over the highly contagious strain prompted the Norwegian government to impose a partial lockdown in order to contain the rise in Omicron cases.
Norway is seeing an Omicron “contagion bomb” and unless effective measures are implemented health chiefs fear the country could see up to 300,000 people infected per day in January.
The government has then imposed a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, closed most gyms and swimming pools to most people and tightened rules in schools, and other venues.
“There is no doubt – the new variant changes the rules. That’s why we need to act fast and we need to act again,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre at a press conference Monday evening.
This is the fourth time authorities have had to tighten restrictions in the last 2 weeks.
“For many, this will feel like a lockdown, if not of society then of their lives and of their livelihoods.”
Norway hit a record high of 5,413 cases on Friday. The new restrictions are aimed at easing the pressure on the healthcare system and reducing the impact of the current wave.
At the same time, the country looks to speed up its vaccination drive with the support of the military forces, as well as pharmacies, the PM said yesterday.
The prospects for the new variant do not look quite optimistic.
Billy Gardner and Marm Kilpatrick of the University of California, Santa Cruz, developed some computer models including data on COVID-19 vaccines against previous coronavirus strains and preliminary data on the Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech vaccine against Omicron.
According to their findings, the existing COVID-19 vaccine is much less effective against the Omicron variant than it is against other strains.
Their models found that after two-dose series of the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer/BioNtech or Moderna (mRNA.o), the protection against Omicron is around 30 percent, up from 87 percent on Delta.
Kilpatrick said that boosters shots increase such protection to roughly 48 percent, which is still concerningly low in the face of a pandemic.