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Did business trip to South Africa spark world’s biggest Omicron outbreak?

A business trip to South Africa may have sparked the world’s biggest Omicron outbreak after between 50 and 60 vaccinated people were infected at a Christmas party in Norway. 

Scatec staff had recently returned from South Africa, where the super-mutant strain was first discovered, before the meal at Louise Restaurant & Bar in Aker Brygge on Oslo’s waterfront on Friday. 

Business development analyst Marta Zlotkowska posted pictures of Table Mountain and a view from an airplane window from a visit to Scatec’s Cape Town office three weeks ago on Instagram and captioned it ‘simply love my job’.

There was no suggestion Ms Zlotkowska brought the Omicron variant back to Norway but yesterday it appeared she was among those isolating following the outbreak as she posted a boomerang on Instagram captioned ‘Quarantine Day #2’.

Fifty people tested positive with a PCR test and 10 with a lateral flow following the party, though so far none are though to be seriously ill. 

Oslo authorities today confirmed a positive Omicron case following a company Christmas party in the Norwegian capital and said more infections were ‘expected’.

Scatec has insisted only vaccinated employees were allowed to attend the party and they needed a negative test result beforehand.  

A business trip to South Africa (pictured, Table Mountain on a Scatec business development analyst’s Instagram) may have sparked the world’s biggest Omicron outbreak after 50-60 vaccinated people were infected at renewable energy firm Scatec’s Christmas party in Oslo 

Scatect business development analyst Marta Zlotkowska (pictured) was among staff had recently returned from South Africa, where the super-mutant strain was first discovered, before 50-60 people vaccinated people were infected at the firm's Christmas party in Oslo

Scatect business development analyst Marta Zlotkowska (pictured) was among staff had recently returned from South Africa, where the super-mutant strain was first discovered, before 50-60 people vaccinated people were infected at the firm’s Christmas party in Oslo

Business development analyst Marta Zlotkowska posted a view from an airplane window from a visit to Scatec's Cape Town office three weeks ago on Instagram and captioned it 'simply love my job'

Business development analyst Marta Zlotkowska posted a view from an airplane window from a visit to Scatec’s Cape Town office three weeks ago on Instagram and captioned it ‘simply love my job’

Norwegian epidemiologists had earlier ruled out the possibility the infections are Delta variant cases and said there was a ‘high probability’ it was Omicron.   

The Christmas party was held in a closed room but the guests reportedly mingled with other people in the restaurant after 10:30pm, when it turned into a nightclub. 

At least two restaurant guests not involved in the Christmas party also later tested positive, though it is not yet clear if they were infected at the event or from a different contact. 

Ten waiters who served the table were tested after the party, but none have tested positive. But one of the company’s super-spreaders was also drinking in an Irish bar in the city the following night, raising fears more could be infected. 

Over 71 per cent of Norway’s population are fully vaccinated, higher than the 69 per cent of Brits and 59 per cent of Americans who have had both jabs.  

The Christmas party was held in a closed room but the guests reportedly mingled with other people in the restaurant after 10:30pm, when it turned into a nightclub (pictured, inside Louise Restaurant & Bar)

The Christmas party was held in a closed room but the guests reportedly mingled with other people in the restaurant after 10:30pm, when it turned into a nightclub (pictured, inside Louise Restaurant & Bar) 

50 people tested positive on a PCR test and 10 from a lateral flow following Norwegian renewable energy company Scatec's Christmas party at Louise Restaurant & Bar (pictured) in Aker Brygge, Oslo, on Friday

50 people tested positive on a PCR test and 10 from a lateral flow following Norwegian renewable energy company Scatec’s Christmas party at Louise Restaurant & Bar (pictured) in Aker Brygge, Oslo, on Friday

One of the Scatec (pictured, Scatec's office in Norway) employees had recently returned from South Africa, where the company does some of its business

One of the Scatec (pictured, Scatec’s office in Norway) employees had recently returned from South Africa, where the company does some of its business  

Omicron could cause over half of Europe’s Covid cases in ‘next few months’: EU health agency 

The Omicron variant of Covid-19, believed to be more contagious than previous strains, could cause more than half of all Covid infections in Europe in coming months, the EU health agency ECDC said on Thursday.

‘Based on mathematical modelling conducted by ECDC, there are indications that Omicron could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months,’ it said in a threat assessment report.

Reporting by AFP 

Tine Ravlo, assistant chief infection control doctor in Frogner District, said a preliminary screening of the cases’ samples showed it was likely it was Omicron. 

She said the samples have been sent for sequencing which will confirm if it is Omicron. 

Head of the infection tracking team in Oslo west, Jorum Thaulow, told Avisa Oslo: ‘We have not received it definitively confirmed, but there are very strong indications that it is Omicron in this outbreak.’ 

Thaulow said all the cases had been treated as if they had the Omicron variant and told to self-isolate for seven days. At least 41 of those infected live in Oslo.

Authorities scrambled to find close contacts of the employees to get them to quarantine for ten days, warning everyone who was at the Oslo bar between 10:30pm on Friday and 3am on Saturday to isolate.   

At least one of the people infected was out in the community, at the Old Irish Pub at Majorstuen, on Saturday evening and the Oslo Municipality have also encouraged anyone who was there between 10pm and 1am to quarantine. 

‘At the moment one person is confirmed as infected with Omicron but more cases are expected,’ the city said in a statement.

‘We are working actively with contact tracing to limit the spread and prevent bigger outbreaks.’ 

The Nordic country on Wednesday detected its first two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere is expected to hold a news conference later on Thursday. 

It comes after a spokesperson for the World Health Organisation yesterday said early data suggests the mutant strain is better at infecting people than Delta, even the fully vaccinated.

But the official, speaking anonymously, told Reuters, most cases only cause ‘mild symptoms’ and that there is no evidence the new variant has any impact on vaccine effectiveness against serious illness. 

The comment marks the first official hint that the Omicron super-strain may not wreak as much global havoc as initially feared.

Despite fears about Omicron, South Africa is still recording far fewer overall Covid cases per population size than both the UK and US.

Figures from the Oxford University research platform Our World in Data shows South Africa has 46 cases per million people compared to 628 in the UK and 246 in the US. Cases are rising sharply in South Africa but are starting at a low base.

So far, only 172 Omicron cases have been confirmed in South Africa and doctors there maintain that patients with the new variant are presenting with milder symptoms than previous strains — even though daily cases have soared 400 per cent in a week to 4,373 yesterday.

 


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