A health official in Norway said the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over in the Scandinavian country. Dr. Preven Aavitsland of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) based his declaration on the country recording its lowest level of hospitalizations since the end of last summer. The chief physician of the NIPH’s infection control and environmental health division nevertheless warned Norwegians against letting their guards down.
On June 6, Aavitsland tweeted a graph showing Norway’s lowest hospital admissions levels – writing that the figure showed “the pandemic [was] over with.” He espoused the sentiment during his interviews with Norwegian media outlets.
The health official told Norwegian newspaper VG: “Here in Norway – the pandemic is, so to say, over. We can start to prepare ourselves for [the coronavirus] taking very little space in our everyday lives.” He later told state broadcaster NRK: “A fire chief would have said: The forest fire is out and the danger for people and buildings is over. [But] there remains a little clearing up here and there and we need to be vigilant.”
Aavitsland predicted that Norway would only see localized outbreaks in the future as authorities there were well equipped to deal with these situations. He added that rising vaccination rates contributed to very few people contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized because of the disease. As of writing, 28 percent of adults in the Scandinavian country had been fully vaccinated, while 42 percent had received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
However, he noted that it would still take several years for the pandemic to come under control globally. “It isn’t [completely] over until it’s over for everyone,” Aavitsland said. The chief physician nevertheless continued that Norwegian health authorities would increasingly offer their expertise outside their home country.
Norway has had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe throughout all three waves of the pandemic. Its cases and deaths have also been significantly lower than its Scandinavian neighbors Sweden and Denmark – the latter taking a similar approach to Norway. Its low population density and isolated position in northern Europe played a role in curbing the rise of infections.
Swift action by Norwegian authorities helped bring the pandemic to its heels
Decisive action by Norway’s government and public health officials when infections rose also contributed to the country’s low caseload. “What we have done right is that, first of all, we moved tough and hard at the start,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told the Financial Times in May 2021. She credited Norwegians’ general trust in the authorities in helping with the COVID-19 response. The prime minister also mentioned the country’s US$1.3 trillion oil fund that helped alleviate the economic effects of the pandemic.
However, not all Norwegian health officials concurred with Aavitsland’s declaration. Norwegian Directorate of Health Assistant Director Espen Nakstad warned that the pandemic was not completely over in the country. He added that until all adults receive their second COVID-19 vaccine doses in August or September of this year, people cannot lower their guards just yet. “Hopefully we can live very normally again, even if the pandemic is … not completely over in Norway until it’s over in all countries,” Nakstad told NRK.
NIPH Director General Dr. Camilla Stoltenberg also disagreed with Aavitsland’s remarks. She said: “It is too early to state that the coronavirus pandemic is over in Norway.” The director general added that even Aavitsland himself “has also emphasized that we still have a way to go.”
The swift decisions of Norway’s health authorities were also reflected in how the country responded to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Back in April 2021, the NIPH recommended that the vaccine made by the British drug manufacturer be suspended there. The guidance followed reports of blood-related adverse reactions from those inoculated with the vaccine. (Related: Norwegian health agency recommends banning AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine due to blood clot risks.)
NIPH Infection Control and Environmental Health Division Director Geir Bukholm said in an April 15 statement: “We now know significantly more about the connection between the AstraZeneca vaccine and the rare and serious incidents of low platelets, blood clots and bleeding. Based on this knowledge, we have arrived at a recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine be removed from the coronary vaccination program in Norway.”
Later, a May 12 Bloomberg report said that Norway removed the AstraZeneca vaccine permanently from its COVID-19 vaccination schedule. Solberg announced the move during a news conference on the same day. The prime minister told reporters: “The government has decided that the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used in Norway, not even voluntarily.” (Related: Norwegian doctor says AstraZeneca jab is, in fact, causing deadly blood clots.)
Visit Pandemic.news to read more stories on how European countries such as Norway respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.