Why Norway is using home quarantine instead of testing more people for coronavirus

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 4 Mar, 2020 Updated Wed 4 Mar 2020 15:29 CEST
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Hundreds of people across Norway are currently in quarantine at their homes, as the country fights to restrain the spread of coronavirus infections.


At least 33 people in Norway have been confirmed as having coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon. None of the individuals are reported to be seriously ill.

With at least 5 cases connected to the ophthalmology department at the Ullevål campus of Oslo University Hospital, as many as 280 staff from the hospital have been told to quarantine themselves at home, news agency NTB reported on Tuesday.

150 employees of the hospital have tested negative for coronavirus, of which 115 work at the eye department, according to NTB’s report. Six staff members, all from the eye unit, had been confirmed as infected as of Tuesday afternoon.

Other county authorities have also sent people into home quarantine.


Generally, Norway’s health authorities are currently only testing people for coronavirus if they have symptoms of COVID-19.

Hundreds of others who have recently been to outbreak countries or in contact with infected persons, but do not have symptoms, are being advised to stay at home but are not being tested as a standard procedure.

The use of quarantine over testing as a first approach is appropriate from a medical perspective, Norwegian Institute for Public Health (FHI) head doctor Preben Aavitsland told newspaper Aftenposten.

“The test is most likely negative during the incubation period. So a negative test gives false security,” Aavitsland said.

As such, a person who initially tests negative can still be infected with coronavirus.

The incubation period is the time that elapses between the time of infection and the outbreak of the disease and can vary between diseases and individuals.

The incubation time for new coronavirus can range from 0 to 14 days.

If a person has symptoms in addition to being in contact with an outbreak area or a confirmed infected person, they will then be tested for coronavirus.

Bjørn Guldvog, director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, said that the country currently lacks enough testing equipment for a widespread outbreak, media including VG and NRK report on Wednesday.

“There is not enough equipment if you look ahead in time. We need help to get more equipment for infection control. More deliveries and possibly alternative solutions,” Guldvog said at a Wednesday press briefing in comments reported by VG.

Tests to check for infection are in short supply, as is infection control equipment such as facemasks, he said.

Such equipment is in high demand in many countries due to the current global situation.

“Given that the supply situation is quite demanding, we must pay very close attention to exactly this. We are working hard on this,” Guldvog said.

“We are working to become robust with regard to tests. Both by increasing suppliers and producing test equipment nationally to a greater extent,” he said.

“We didn't have tests for this exact virus before the disease broke out, so to be able to establish this at a few weeks' notice is good going. But it is not surprising that there may be capacity problems in the first few weeks after there are major outbreaks of a viral disease,” he elaborated.

The coronavirus situation in Norway remains less serious than in other countries, but you can keep up to date with the latest news via this article, which also includes official guidelines on the everyday precautions you can take and what to do if you have travelled to outbreak areas or are concerned about symptoms. The article will be updated on an ongoing basis.

We are keeping the article paywall-free, which means it will remain open to new or occasional readers. An explanation of this decision can be found at the bottom of the article.



The Local 2020/03/04 15:29

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