A Christmas party in Norway has left between 50 and 60 people infected with suspected cases of the new Covid-19 variant Omicron, despite all 120 guests being vaccinated and testing negative beforehand.
The meal at Louise Restaurant & Bar in Aker Brygge on Oslo's waterfront is believed to be the world's biggest outbreak of the new strain so far.
Doctors said 50 people tested positive with a PCR test and 10 with a lateral flow following the party at Louise Restaurant & Bar in Aker Brygge, Oslo, on Friday.
Norwegian epidemiologists have ruled out the possibility the infections are Delta variant cases and said there was a 'high probability' it was Omicron because at least one of the Scatec employees had recently returned from the renewable energy company's South African office in Cape Town.
Oslo authorities today confirmed a positive Omicron case, following a company Christmas party in the Norwegian capital.
But in another twist, Scatec insisted only vaccinated employees were allowed to attend the party and they needed a negative test result beforehand.
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.
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.
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.
Scatec yesterday released a press release which stated only vaccinated employees were allowed at the the Christmas party and that everyone had to have tested in advance.
It admitted employees were infected with Covid, but refused to confirm the number of employees infected. A Scatec spokesperson refused MailOnline requests for comment.
Thaulow said it was fairly common for fully jabbed people to carry and pass on Covid-19.
Norway yesterday became one of the latest countries to report cases of the variant, with Ghana, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.
BREAKING: Christmas party in Norway infects over 50 in suspected omicron outbreak https://t.co/1IPUbMfpZm— The Independent (@Independent) December 2, 2021
And 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.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.