Norway to decide on extending coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday: minister

Norway's health minister has said that his government will on Tuesday decide whether to extend the current coronavirus lockdown, or whether to relax some of the more stringent measures.

Norway to decide on extending coronavirus lockdown on Tuesday: minister
Norwegian health minister Bent Høie answering questions before the coronavirus crisis broke. Photo: Norwegian Health Ministry/Facebook
“A conclusion on the most powerful measures is not coming today, so probably tomorrow,” Bent Høie told public news service NRK.
Høie warned, though, that citizens should not expect schools and kindergartens to necessarily reopen again on Thursday, explaining that some measures might be kept in place for longer: “People must be prepared for stringent measures, even after March 26.” 
He also said the severity of how the virus hits hospitals in coming weeks still depended on whether citizens could keep up their efforts.  
“We have an unbelievably good motivation to stick to it,” he said, calling on people to continue limiting social activity, washing their hands and coughing into their elbows. 
Shortly after Høie's statement, Espen Rostrup Nakstad, Deputy Director General of Norway's Directorate of Health, told NRK that there were early signs that the number of coronavirus cases in the country was starting to stabilise. 
“We know that infection rates are relatively stable. This is also well reflected in admissions figures,” he said. “We also see that only four percent of those tested have had a coronavirus infection.” 
In recent days, he said, the number of new confirmed cases had risen by between 180 and 200 a day. 
Høie's statement came after the city of Oslo on the weekend tightened its regime, forcibly closing bars and restaurants across the city after realising that people were not heeding advice to keep their distance from one another. 
“There were 50 places still open, and we realised with concern the danger of infection in some of these places,” Oslo Mayor Raymond Johansen told NRK on Monday. “Because we had given advice and people weren't acting on it, we were forced to take the decision.
Shortly after the press conference, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health reported that there had been 240 new cases in the 24 hours up until midnight on Sunday, bringing the total in the country to 2,371. 
At 12.15 on Monday, there were 380 patients in hospital with the virus, of whom 38 are in intensive care. 

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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