How Norway’s smaller municipalities controlled Covid-19 outbreaks

How Norway’s smaller municipalities controlled Covid-19 outbreaks
Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash
Some smaller municipalities across Norway have managed to control increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, citing rigorous contact tracing and prompt messaging.

While urban municipalities such as Oslo and Bergen have introduced strict local restrictions in order to curb increasing coronavirus infections in Norwegian cities, national data shows infection rates per 100,000 residents for rural municipalities to be generally lower.

The map below shows the new infections per 100,000 residents for the last two weeks up until Tuesday, November 17th (scroll over for numbers and municipality name). 

It should be noted that municipalities with very small population sizes will show a high value for the measure even if they have only a handful of cases.

READ ALSO: MAP: Where are Norway's coronavirus hotspots?

According to a report by NRK, in which the broadcaster spoke to local officials and residents, aggressive information campaigns at the outset of the pandemic and, later, a fast response to known clusters in the form of contact tracing, are two key elements that have helped local authorities to contain outbreaks.

Two examples highlighted in the report are those of Farsund and Lyngdal neighbouring municipalities in the county of Agder, which saw clusters linked to a choir and church congregation at the beginning of this month.

Information was quickly provided to residents, but fast contact tracing was decisive, Farsund municipal head doctor Ann-Margret Haaland told NRK.

“If it had gone really wrong, we’d probably have had an outbreak right up to Christmas. But because we reacted so quickly, the main outbreak didn’t take longer than around 14 days,” she said.

In nearby Lyngdal, broad testing and isolation of potentially infected persons were the most important part of the response, according to the municipality’s senior doctor Henriette Pettersen.

Isolation of a high proportion of residents helped to turn around infection trends in a number of other areas, NRK, writes, including some which now have downwards infection curves.

In one case cited by the broadcaster – Evje in Aust Agder – 459 of the municipality’s 3,630 population was in isolation at one point, a proportion that would not be practically possible in cities.

But hard work to trace the contacts was nevertheless crucial to make that approach possible, local mayor Svein Arne Haugen told NRK.

National health authority NIPH has praised local authorities for their effective responses to localised clusters and outbreaks of Covid-19.

Small municipalities have exceeded expectations with their management of the virus, according to NIPH consultant doctor Preben Aavitsland.

“Even small municipalities who barely have a full time senior doctor are managing to turn things around and take control,” he said to NRK.

Although lessons could be taken from smaller municipalities to managing the virus response elsewhere, contact tracing is necessarily more difficult in larger population centres due to more complex infection chains, he admitted.

“It is difficult, and we’re still struggling with Oslo and Bergen,” he said.


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