Omicron COVID Variant Outbreak at Christmas Party Infects 60 People

Dozens of people in Norway who attended a work Christmas party have tested positive for Omicron, and if the cases are confirmed, it could be the world's biggest known single outbreak of the new coronavirus variant.

After staff at the renewable energy company Scatec attended the party at Louise Restaurant & Bar in Oslo on November 26, 50 people returned positive PCR tests for COVID, while another 10 tested positive following lateral flow checks, according to NRK.

Oslo Municipality said on Thursday that one case of Omicron has been proven and more cases were expected following the event. The outlet said that this would make it the largest recorded outbreak of Omicron in the world.

Scatec builds, owns and operates solar energy plants and has operations internationally, including in Cape Town, South Africa, where some of the staff had recently been.

Last week, a number of countries banned flights from South Africa and neighboring countries following the first report of the new variant, which is being investigated by experts over its transmissibility.

Tine Ravlo, assistant district superintendent in the Norwegian capital's Frogner District said, according to a translation, that a preliminary screening had shown there was a "high probability" of finding Omicron among the Scatec staff.

Samples have been sent for sequencing, which will confirm if it was the new variant.

Those infected will be in isolation for seven days and there will be widespread tracking of the people they might have been in contact with. Those infected have been suffering only mild symptoms, Ravlo said.

Norwegian media reported that all those at the party had to be vaccinated and show a negative test for COVID. Among the infected, 41 live in Oslo and the rest in other municipalities.

Negative Before the Event

Scatec's communications manager, Stian Tvede Karlsen, said that none of the participants had tested positive for coronavirus before the party, according to E24.

All those who visited the restaurant since last Friday night have been asked to take a test, as have those who went to the Old Irish Pub in Majorstua the next day, because one of the party guests visited there.

Norway's health ministry announced on Wednesday it had identified its first two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant in the Oeygarden municipality.

The two people infected had recently returned from a trip to South Africa, from where travelers entering Norway must go into quarantine.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere announced new measures this week including the compulsory wearing of face masks and speeding up booster vaccinations, Reuters reported.

Oslo street
Christmas lights shine on Karl Johan Street in Oslo, with the Royal Palace in the background on December 20, 2020. Dozens of people attending a Christmas party in Oslo have become infected with the Omicron COVID variant. Per Ole Hagen/Getty