‘It’s time for drastic measures’: Oslo raises emergency level to fight virus

Oslo's city government has raised its emergency level to 'Level 3', and brought in a raft of strict new measures to slow the spread of coronavirus, citing the "extremely serious" situation.

'It's time for drastic measures': Oslo raises emergency level to fight virus
Oslo City Hall (above) brought in new restrictions on Wednesday. Photo: Visit Oslo
“We are in a very serious situation for our capital, for Norway and for the international community,” Oslo Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “We must do everything in our power to limit the contagion and spare the most vulnerable. It is time for drastic measures.” 
Oslo's new tougher measures largely mirror those announced on Tuesday by Bergen, Norway's second city. Bergen on Wednesday announced that cruise passengers would no longer be permitted to disembark in the city .
Oslo Mayor Raymond Johansen underlined that the situation was “very serious”. Photo: Oslo Kommune
Level 3 allows Oslo's city authorities to establish central crisis management in the city, with enhanced coordination between different agencies.
As well as the new emergency level, the city announced the following measures:
  • All events with more than 100 people will now have to apply for permission to the municipality before taking place. All events with more than 500 people have been banned. 
  • Nightclubs, restaurant, meeting rooms and other venues must ensure that everyone present can maintain a distance from others in the venue of at least one metre. 
  • Oslo City Hall will be closed to tourists and events, and restrictions will be placed on the number of guests during weddings.
  • Information will be sent out to all the inhabitants of the municipality via SMS.
The city for now intends to keep schools and kindergartens open, councillor Inge Marte Torkildsen said, but recommended that they avoid all unnecessary activities which might expose students to infection. 
Robert Rastad, the Director General of Bergen municipality said that the cruise ship decision had been taken partly to reduce crowding.  
“We are doing this as one of many measures to both reduce crowding in the city, and also to reduce the possibility of coronavirus infection, and to prevent guests from the risk of being infected when they visit us, said the municipality director. 

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Why are more people waiting to be given a GP in Norway?

As many as 116,000 people are waiting to be given a "fastlege", or GP, in Norway. So, why are residents having to wait to be assigned a doctor?

More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork.
More than 116,000 people are waiting to be given a GP in Norway. Pictured is a picture of a stethoscope and some paperwork. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

A recent quarterly report from the Norwegian Directorate of Health has revealed that 116,000 people in Norway are on the waiting list to be given a GP

Furthermore, the number of those without a doctor has grown in recent years, with those in rural and northern parts of the country more likely to be left waiting for a GP. 

The current GP scheme in Norway allows everyone to choose their own doctor, who acts as the patients’ main point of contact with the health service. Your GP is also responsible for your primary medical needs, and you are allowed to change your doctor twice a year. 

READ ALSO: How Norway’s health insurance scheme works and the common problems foreigners face

Doctors in Norway have warned that a lack of funding and staff is threatening the GP system. 

“The GP scheme is on the verge of collapsing because there are too few doctors,” Bernand Holthe, a GP on the board of the Nordland Medical Association and a member of GP’s association for the area, told public broadcaster NRK

He says that reform in 2012 to the GP system has left doctors with too much work with not enough resources at their disposal. 

“After the collaboration reform in 2012, the GP scheme has been given too many tasks without receiving a corresponding amount of resources,” Holthe said. 

The government has pledged around 450 million in funding for GPs in its state budget for 2022, which Holthe argues isn’t enough to recruit the number of GPs necessary. 

Nils Kristian Klev and Marte Kvittum Tangen who represent the country’s 5,000 or so GPs also said they were disappointed with the level of funding allocated for doctors in the national budget. 

“The Labor Party was clear before the election that they would increase the basic funding in the GP scheme. This is by far the most important measure to ensure stability and recruitment and it is urgent,” the pair told Norwegian newswire NTB.

Patients have been left frustrated, and in a recent survey on healthcare in the country, one reader of The Local expressed their frustration at not having a GP. 

“I moved from Olso to Tromso, and I’m currently without a GP. Helsenorge didn’t think this was an issue and told me to visit a hospital if I needed to see a doctor. How can a municipality have no places for a doctor? Everyone has a right to a local doctor, and I’ve been left with nothing. All I can do is join a waiting list in the hopes a place turns up before I get ill,” Sinead from Tromsø said in the survey. 

Another reader described the fastlege system as “horrible”. 

Key vocabulary

Fastlege– GP 

Legevakt– Emergency room

Sykehus– Hospital 

Helseforsikring– Health insurance

Legekontor- Doctors office