Up to 60 people were infected with Covid-19 at a corporate Christmas party in Norway attended by a recent arrival from South Africa. Medical experts said they fear the cause could be the new super-mutant Omicron variant.
If the Omicron diagnosis is confirmed, it would be the world's largest outbreak of the new coronavirus strain to date. Some 120 employees of Scatec, a renewable energy company, had gathered for a Christmas party at the Louise Restaurant and Bar in Norway's capital Oslo last Friday.
One of the guests had just returned from South Africa, where the Omicron variant was recently discovered, broadcaster NRK reported on Thursday. However, it's not yet clear if this person has an Omicron infection or if they were 'patient zero' in the Christmas party-related cases.
The employees reportedly partied in a closed room, before later mingling with other people as the restaurant turned into a nightclub.
The party turned super-spreader event resulted in up to 60 people being infected with the coronavirus, local health officials told reporters. Most of them were Scatec employees, but several others unrelated to the company also fell sick.
"We have not had it definitively confirmed, but there are very strong indications that it is Omicron in this outbreak," Jorum Thaulow, who heads the infection tracking team in western Oslo, told Avisa Oslo.
At least 41 of those infected were Oslo residents, Thaulow said, adding that they were told to self-isolate for seven days. Their close contacts also have to quarantine for ten days if they show symptoms.
The assistant chief infection control doctor in Frogner District, Tine Ravlo, also indicated that the infections were likely Omicron. She said the samples from the partygoers have been sent for sequencing to confirm the Covid strain involved.
As of Wednesday, some 60 confirmed Omicron cases have been reported by a dozen European countries. The EU health agency ECDC warned on Thursday that, according to its mathematical models, the new mutated strain "could cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months."