Clearer test prioritisation and stricter quarantine rules

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The high demand for rapid antigen tests and self-tests requires that the municipalities now clearly prioritise who to test. The Norwegian Government has also tasked the Norwegian Directorate of Health with procuring more tests immediately. A single set of quarantine rules will be in effect from 15 December at 12 am, regardless of the virus variant.

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‘It is very likely that we will see a substantial increase in the Omicron infection rate in the coming weeks. Testing is an important measure to limit transmission, and there is high demand for rapid antigen tests and self-tests. We recently purchased 10 million rapid antigen tests and self-tests for delivery before New Year. At the same time, we are increasing the pressure and asking the Norwegian Directorate of Health to immediately begin procuring more tests. It is important that critical societal functions are not affected. We must therefore do even more to prioritise the use of rapid antigen tests and self-tests,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.

Prioritisation for use of rapid antigen tests and self-tests in municipalities:

  • Close contacts of people in critical societal function during an Omicron outbreak.

  • If symptomatic:
    • Prioritise employees with diffuse symptoms in the health and care service, other people in critical societal functions, and children.

  • If known exposure to infection for household members or corresponding close relations:
    • Prioritise children
    • Prioritise employees in the health and care service
    • Prioritise close contacts during an Omicron outbreak

  • If known exposure to infection for other close contacts:
    • Prioritise children and employees in the health and care service, or critical societal functions, who are other close contacts when an outbreak is confirmed as not being due to Omicron.

  • Regular testing of children, especially in areas with a persistently high infection rate.

  • Regular testing in the health and care service in accordance with the recommendations of the Norwegian Directorate of Health and in areas with a persistently high infection rate.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health will send more information to the municipalities. The Norwegian Government will present a new long-term strategy for the TISK work (testing-isolation-tracing-quarantine) later.

‘Testing helps keep society open, which is why it is our objective to conduct more regular testing of children, employees in the education sector, health professionals, people in other communities with a high infection rate, and people in the culture and business sectors, if applicable. The Norwegian Government will assess how to further adjust the TISK work to ease contact tracing in the municipalities and reduce the use of quarantine. We will present a new long-term TISK strategy in the New Year,’ states Ms Kjerkol.

Quarantine rules
When the Omicron variant was discovered in Norway, separate stricter isolation and quarantine rules were introduced for close contacts of confirmed or suspected cases of the variant in order to delay transmission.

‘Dealing with parallel rules in contact tracing work is very challenging, and this is becoming less justifiable with the increase in cases of the Omicron variant. We are therefore now introducing a single set of isolation and quarantine rules, regardless of the virus variant, following the recommendations of the specialist agencies. This entails, among other things, a duty to quarantine for household members and corresponding close relations, with the possibility of taking a test to end quarantine early after 7 days.

Other close contacts may take a test to end quarantine early after 3 days, but must remain in quarantine during their leisure time until they receive a negative test after 7 days.

There is an exemption for personnel in critical societal functions during working hours, which includes a requirement for them to present a negative test taken on the same day that the work is to be done,’ says Ms Kjerkol.