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HEALTH

Coronavirus: 36 crew members test positive on Norwegian cruise ship

Thirty-six crew members confined on a Norwegian cruise ship have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Coronavirus: 36 crew members test positive on Norwegian cruise ship
Cruise ships have become a major new infection point (file photo) Photo: PATRIK STOLLARZ / AFP

Arriving at the northern Norwegian port of Tromso from the archipelago of Svalbard, the crew of the MS Roald Amundsen was quarantined on board the ship on Friday after four staff members tested positive for the virus and were hospitalised.

Of the 158 crew members on board, 36 are infected, Pal Jakobsen, media officer for the city of Tromso, told AFP, confirming a development that raises fears of a resurgence of cases in Norway. The ship's company Hurtigruten had earlier indicated 33 positive tests.

The infected crew were all Filipino apart from three people from France, Norway and Germany. The company said on Friday that four crew members “were isolated several days ago because of other disease symptoms, with no symptoms of COVID-19.

“There was no reason to suspect COVID-19 when the ship docked in Tromso based on the symptoms they were showing,” Hurtigruten said.

The ship had nearly 180 passengers on board since departing on July 25. None of the passengers reported symptoms related to coronavirus during the voyage, Hurtigruten said.

All passengers disembarked the ship on Friday but about 60 people have since been quarantined in Tromso, the cruise line said on Saturday.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has not ruled out the possibility of more cases emerging, “but we will only have the answer once the tests have been carried out”.

It recommended all passengers remain quarantined while awaiting their results. As of Friday, Norway had 9,208 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

One person died of the virus on Friday night, bringing the country's death toll to 256. It was the first coronavirus-related death in the Nordic country in two weeks.

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HEALTH

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

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