eISSN: 2450-5722
ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 7

How has Norway beaten the COVID-19 pandemic?

Zuzanna Opolska

J Health Inequal 2021; 7 (1): 7–11
Online publish date: 2021/06/29
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– I remember the meeting in February last year at ECDC in Sweden – we were looking at the figures, and some argued that “it’s unstoppable”. Others pointed to China, and we were saying maybe yes. Fast lockdown, movement restrictions, mass tests, precise contact tracking and reporting. But is it possible to implement these measures in a Western democracy? Frode Forland from the Institute of Public Health tells us how Norway managed to overcome the pandemic.

Norway is seen as a model in the fight against COVID-19. In 15 months, just 789 people died from the coronavirus; in Poland, only on November 7, 2020, 1249 died. How did you do it?

I think there are maybe three main reasons for that. The first is what I would call the rapid lockdown that was done. We saw this coming in January and February and the beginning of March. And then, around the tenth of March, we saw that the virus was suddenly spreading through society, which we could not trace back to travel. That was when we understood it was starting to spread within the country without us knowing where. And that was when the decision was taken by the government together with the Directorate of Health and the Public Health Institute that we should have a proper lockdown, which was implemented on the 12th of March. That had a surprisingly great effect, which actually happened pretty fast. So, within three weeks, we saw the curve turning, and it was turning fast, and again to a level that we could cope with during April and May, and to a gradual reopening towards summer last year. The second issue was that we have a system in Norway regarding infectious disease control connected to the municipality level of the administration of the country. In Norway, there are three hundred and fifty-six municipalities. And in each municipality there is an infectious disease doctor responsible for contact tracing, quarantining, and for isolation and testing when there is a local outbreak. The idea of having this local responsibility has been part of the success factor. And it also means that in every municipality what we call a contact tracing team has been established. Hence, a total of 2500 people have been registered as contact tracers, and have been ready to do so every time there’s a local outbreak, meaning we’ve been able to shut down all the minor outbreaks that have appeared almost all over the country. There are only 10 municipalities left which have had no cases until now. Every...

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