Only people with symptoms should get tested

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The Norwegian Government is no longer advising household members and corresponding close relations to get tested after close contact with a person with COVID-19. Now adults should only get tested if they develop symptoms, while children in kindergarten and school do not need to get tested. The changes will enter into effect on 12 February at 10 am.

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‘Since Omicron does not lead to severe illness for most people, we are dropping the recommendation for household members and corresponding relations to get tested. Adults with symptoms must still get tested, while children in kindergarten and school do not need to get tested,’ says Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.

The Norwegian Government will eventually consider whether to switch to clinical testing. This is where the health service decides who to test, as it does with other communicable diseases.

Municipal health institutions and hospitals where COVID-19 would pose a great risk can make their own assessment locally to regularly test employees and patients. They may also consider testing visitors to certain wards with particularly vulnerable groups of patients and users.

An end to contact tracing

Until now, it has been up to the person with COVID-19 to notify their close contacts. This is ending. Contact tracing may still be relevant in municipalities experiencing an outbreak, for example, in municipal institutions.

‘Contact tracing is less important now that the infection rate is so high. Right now, what is most important is for sick people to stay home, and that we work together to protect people in risk groups,' states Ms Kjerkol.

People in risk groups normally have good protection against serious illness if they are vaccinated. People who are at high risk of serious illness should consult their doctor about their risk and whether it is necessary to shield when the infection rate is high.

‘It is nonetheless important that they not isolate themselves, but have some social contact,’ stresses Ms Kjerkol.

The duty to isolate is replaced with a recommendation to stay home

Until now, people with COVID-19 have had a duty to isolate themselves when they have received a positive test result. Among other things, the infected person has been required to keep a distance of at least 2 metres from other household members and to use a separate bathroom, when possible.

The Norwegian Government will replace this now with a recommendation for people to stay home for 4 days and not return to work until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours. However, they no longer need to have a separate bathroom or stay away from other household members.

‘Isolation is an invasive measure, and is no longer proportionate, given the current situation. To limit further infection during this period, where the infection rate is high, there is still a need for a recommendation to stay home for 4 days after receiving a positive test result,’ says Ms Kjerkol.

Children in kindergarten and school should stay home if they are sick, but they do not need to get tested. They can return to kindergarten or school once they have been fever-free for 24 hours. This will shorten the period of time that parents and guardians are absent from work.

‘Children and adolescents rarely fall seriously ill, and we should do our utmost to shield them from the burden of having to stay away from friends, school and leisure activities,’ states Ms Kjerkol.