Infection rates in Norway ‘too low’ to justify broad testing

Norway's health agency has abandoned plans to test broadly for coronavirus after judging that the spread of infection in the country is now so low that doing so would be pointless.

Infection rates in Norway 'too low' to justify broad testing
A testing facility in the UK. Photo: UK Treasury/Flickr
Instead, tests will be reserved for those who have symptoms of coronavirus, those who work in healthcare or elderly care homes, and those in risk groups. 
If 12,000 random people were tested in Norway today, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimated in a press release issued on Monday, 15 would test positive, of which only one would have a real coronavirus infection. 
“In such a situation, health professionals should not rely on a positive result until they have taken a new test to confirm it,”  Joakim Øverbø, a doctor at the institute, said in a statement. 
The institute made an exception for elderly care homes, where it has decided staff and patients can be tested whether they exhibit symptoms or not. This is because residents often display fewer typical symptoms, are less able to communicate how they feel, and are at a much higher risk from the virus. 
“In such situations, health care professionals should test everyone associated with the unit at a care home where the infection has been detected. If the test answer is negative and you still suspect covid-19, you should take a new test,” he  says.
In its press release, the agency also explained that test results can remain positive for weeks after a person ceases to be contagious, as the standard PCR test did not distinguish between viral debris and an infectious virus.
In its new test criteria, issued on Monday, the institute set out a list of those who should be tested, in order of priority.  
Priorities for coronavirus testing in Norway 
1) Patient in need of hospitalisation.
2) Patient or resident at an elderly care home or other health institution.
3) Those employed in the health service in patient-related work.
4) Those in a risk group and their relatives 
5) A person in quarantine due to close contact with a confirmed coronavirus case or after traveling.
6) Employee, child or pupil in reopened daycare or school. 
7) Others with suspected coronavirus
Those without symptoms should be tested in the following cases: 
  • After an outbreak of infection in an elderly care homes, all employees and residents of the affected units should be tested 
  • When diagnosing infection in health institutions, it may be appropriate to test asymptomatic close contacts. 
  • When new residents move into nursing homes, testing may be appropriate.  
  • Prior to certain hospital stays or procedures (although this is up to each hospital). 
  • In some cases, foreign universities or employers might require testing. This can be done in a private basis. 
  • Research: In some research studies, all participants will be tested regardless of symptoms. 

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EXPLAINED: What Oslo’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you

Most, but not all, of the Norwegian capital's local Covid restrictions have been lifted to fall in line with national coronavirus rules, with new limits on guests at home and new guidance on face masks. Here’s a rundown of what the latest restrictions mean for you.

EXPLAINED: What Oslo's easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you
Oslo's skyline. Photo by Oscar Daniel Rangel on Unsplash

Covid-19 measures in Oslo have been relaxed, with the majority of local restrictions being replaced with the looser national rules.

The new rules are a mix of steps three and four of the city’s five-step reopening plan and were introduced after the lowest infection numbers since last autumn were recorded in Oslo last week. 

Last week, 239 coronavirus infections were registered in the Norwegian capital. 

“The gradual, controlled opening of Oslo has been a success. Many of the rules that the people of Oslo have been expected to live with are now being removed, and we will essentially live with the same corona rules as people elsewhere in Norway,” Oslo’s Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Not all local restrictions have been lifted however, meaning there are a mix of local and national rules in place. 

Below we’ll take a look at how the measures will affect everyday life in Oslo. 

At home 

The significant change here is that the ban on having more than ten people gathered at home has been lifted completely. Instead, this will be replaced with the national recommendation not to have more than guests. 

So while it will not be recommended to have more than ten guests, it’s not an enforceable rule anymore. 

READ MORE: What happens if you get caught breaking the Covid-19 rules in Norway


The local rules for shopping malls and stores have been tweaked too. There will no longer be any rule that makes face masks mandatory in shops. In addition to this, the official social distancing measure has been halved, to one metre, and the limit on the number of people allowed in shops has been scrapped. 

However, it’s worth noting that some shops may wish to keep some infection control measures in place if they feel it helps keep staff and shoppers safe, so it may be worth bringing a mask along on your next trip to the shops just in case.

Face masks  

The rule on mandatory face masks in public has also been given the axe, with two exceptions. 

You will still need one if you are taking public transport or taking a taxi. 

Masks will no longer be needed in shops, gyms, museums and galleries, indoor swimming pools, spa facilities and hotel facilities such as pools and dining areas. 

Although, some places may still wish to continue with a mask policy, so always remember to have one handy to be sure. 


At indoor public places, such as restaurants, 50 people are allowed in venues without fixed assigned seats and 200 people at events with set, assigned seats.

Outdoors, 200 people can gather in cohorts of three, meaning a potential venue of 600 for places with the space and capacity and where there is fixed designated seating.

Soon, when the government changes its rules for events, up to 5,000 people will be able to gather when there is a seating plan in place, provided venues aren’t operating above 50 percent capacity.  

Up to 20 people can book a table at a restaurant or bar when indoors and 30 people outdoors. 

Alcohol will now be able to be served until midnight rather than 10 pm, and this rule will stay in place until July 4th. The cut-off point will remain in place even if national rules change and allow alcohol to be served later. 

Sports, leisure and entertainment 

Bingo halls, bowling alleys, arcades, playgrounds can now reopen.

Oslo’s numbers cap on the people allowed in gyms, museums, galleries, and indoor pools has been lifted. 

Now, 20 people can work out, go for a swim, or take in some art indoors, and up to 30 can do so outdoors. 


Restrictions for schools and kindergartens haven’t changed, however. 

This means that schools and kindergartens in Oslo will remain at yellow level. 

Yellow level means that full class sizes are allowed, but mixing between classes must be kept to a minimum. Yellow level also means increased cleaning and hygiene measures are also in place. 

You can read more about yellow level here

Adult education and university are at red level, which means digital learning where possible and minimal contact between students and teachers. 

You can read more on red level here


People are still required to work from home where possible until July 4th. 

Executive mayor Johansen has previously said the home office would be one of the last pandemic measures to go, meaning it could be here for a while longer.