Omicron variant - updated risk assessment
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The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has prepared an updated risk assessment of the development of the omicron variant in Norway. - Our assessment is that the situation is still serious, says department director Line Vold.
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- We consider that the omicron variant will give a new wave of the epidemic from January because the variant has greater transmissibility. But it is uncertain how big the wave will be, and it will depend on the characteristics of the variant, the ability to spread and prevalence, the effect of vaccination, the effect of infection control measures and the effect of self-selected behavioural changes, says Vold.
- There is uncertainty about the further development. It is necessary to be vigilant, ensure preparedness in the health service and municipalities must be prepared to introduce new measures if necessary, says Vold.
Highlights from the updated risk assessment
- The number of detected cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and the number of admissions are at a high level, but there are signs of flattening.
- Hospitals, nursing homes, GPs and emergency rooms are experiencing an ever-increasing burden as a result of sick patients, increased sickness absence among health personnel and limited opportunities to use temporary staff from abroad.
- The omicron variant is in the process of establishing itself in Norway and will become dominant in a few weeks.
- The omicron variant has a greater transmissibility than the delta variant. This may be due to an inherently increased infectivity, greater ability to circumvent the population's immunity or a combination.
- Vaccination is likely to protect well against a serious disease course with the omicron variant, but protection against infection is reduced compared to previous variants.
- It is too early to conclude whether the omicron variant causes as serious an illness as the delta variant or less severe. There are no indications that the disease course is worse with the omicron variant.
- The omicron variant is likely to bring a new wave of the epidemic from January. The size of this wave is uncertain; it can be very large with up to several hundred daily hospital admissions. The size will depend on the characteristics of the variant, the prevalence and effect of vaccination, the effect of infection control measures and the effect of the population's self-selected behavioural changes.
- It is difficult to assess the risk of a flu epidemic this season. It is right to plan for a major flu epidemic starting in January, but there is a growing possibility that the flu epidemic this winter will be smaller than normal, as a result of continued measures against the COVID-19 epidemic.
- The measures should be continued and possibly adjusted so that an expected epidemic wave caused by the omicron variant flattens out, thus avoiding a sickness burden and burden on the health service.