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Omicron: a Christmas party in Norway worries the Quebec authorities | Coronavirus


It’s really worrying, says a source in Quebec public health, who is not authorized to speak to journalists. The authorities are not concerned about the people who attended this holiday, but rather that events with such a meteoric spread are taking place here.

Not only 80 of the 111 participants in the Norwegian Christmas party were infected, but 60 other people who were in the same restaurant on the evening of November 26 were also infected, concludes the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, after its preliminary investigation.

According to the Norwegian daily VG, who quotes restaurant owner Louise, between 400 and 500 people attended the restaurant that evening, in addition to the hundred or so office party attendees.

Customers were doubly vaccinated against COVID-19, the vast majority with messenger RNA vaccines [Pfizer ou Moderna]. Local health authorities indicate that everything had been done in order and no rule was violated.

Everyone attending the Christmas party had to take a rapid screening test before the party. Everyone had tested negative between one and three days prior.

A quote from Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The source of the contamination would probably be a guest who had returned from South Africa a few days earlier.

Omicron as the culprit

The preliminary analysis of the cases confirmed that 17 people infected were infected with the Omicron variant and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health considers that most of the patients are in the same case.

It is a variant which is extremely transmissible. At a level of contagiousness that we had not seen before, explains Sandrine Moreira, the head of genomic coordination and bioinformatics at the Laboratoire de santé publique du Québec.

The meteoric spread of the virus in the past few days has been compared to a tsunami by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In Ontario, the new variant will be dominant by the end of the week, according to the Ontario Independent Advisory Group on COVID-19.

Each person who contracts this variant infects an average of 3.7 other people.

It’s really huge.

A quote from Sandrine Moreira, COVID-19 sequencing coordinator in Quebec

In Montreal, of the 95 people infected with the Omicron variant, 90% are doubly vaccinated, revealed Wednesday the regional director of public health, Dr. Mylène Drouin.

We must considerably reduce our contacts by Christmas to protect us, but also to protect the capacity of our health network., she warned.

Symptoms, but no serious illness, after the Christmas party

Norwegian Public Health and the City of Oslo interviewed 95% of the attendees at the office party by telephone. Their preliminary investigation concludes that all but one diagnosed with COVID-19 experienced symptoms three days after the Christmas dinner.

Over 70% reported cough, lethargy, headache, sore throat, and over half had a fever. None of the participants were seriously ill or hospitalized. Most are between 30 and 50 years old.

Even if Omicron causes less severe symptoms, the number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems, warned the World Health Organization on Tuesday.

We are concerned that people view Omicron as benign.

A quote from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization

It’s mechanical, it’s statistical, says Sandrine Moreira. When you increase the number of cases, there is a greater risk of having people who unfortunately end up in hospital. This is where we must continue to make efforts to limit transmission.

Hydro-Quebec has asked its employees to suspend office parties due to the worrying progression of the Omicron variant.

In Quebec, restaurants welcome large groups, but they must be separated so that each table has a maximum of 10 guests.

Public health has also allowed the limit of 10 to be increased to 20 in residences from December 23 for family Christmas parties, as long as participants are all vaccinated.

Prime Minister François Legault himself expressed this wish. Faced with the rise of the variant, he maintained his position on Wednesday.

Norway this week unveiled stepped-up measures to prevent an explosion in cases associated with the Omicron variant. Since Wednesday, bars and restaurants can no longer serve alcohol, teleworking is widespread in the country and the vaccination campaign accelerated so that those over 45 receive a third dose.

Now it’s serious, said Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

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