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VACCINE

Why is Norway behind other Nordic countries on Covid-19 vaccination?

Norway’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy differs from comparable countries, meaning initial progress looks slower.

Why is Norway behind other Nordic countries on Covid-19 vaccination?
Photo: AFP

Norway is lagging behind in its Covid-19 vaccination programme when compared to its neighbours and EU countries, who like Norway, receive their supply of vaccines through the EU’s procurement scheme.

The countries are comparable because they receive vaccines via the EU proportionally. Additionally, the vaccines are approved for use in the countries at the same time, through the European Medicines Agency, meaning countries can begin vaccinating on around the same date.

According to Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) figures, the country had given 63,727 people the first dose of the vaccine as of January 20th.

Comparative data website Our World in Data puts the country at 1.03 percent for the proportion of its population so far given the vaccine. It should be noted that the total of administered doses from one day earlier, January 19th, is used here.

The numbers do not compare favourably with neighbouring countries. Denmark’s latest vaccination figures, released by the country’s health ministry on Thursday, state 178,969 people in Denmark have had the first dose so far, amounting to 3.07 percent of the population.

In Sweden, 146,775 people, or around 1.45 percent of the population, have received doses in total. The raw number from Sweden comes from January 17th, because Sweden is so far only updating its vaccine statistics once a week.

Norway, which is part of the EU’s vaccine procurement scheme, is currently in 22nd place overall of the countries in the EU procurement scheme, newspaper VG reports.

So why does Norway appear to be moving more slowly on vaccination than its neighbours?

“There is a confluence of reasons – so I would say we have a solid, safe and good system which will vaccinate our population in a good way,” NIPH senior medical consultant Are Stuwitz Berg told VG in an interview.

“That this, here at the start, means we are a little further down on a list like this is not the most important thing in the wider context,” Berg said.

Comparing with Denmark and Norway enables a comparison of how health care is administrated in the three Scandinavian nations.

In Sweden, 21 different regional health authorities are responsible for distributing vaccines. Denmark has five such regional health authorities. In Norway, the responsibilities falls to individual municipalities – of which there are 356.

“We are taking time to use the system we know and have and to get this completely out to the population,” Berg told VG.

The medical advisor also noted that Norway’s population is more spread out than the geographically smaller Denmark. While Sweden is closer to Norway on this metric, it is governed more centrally.

Changing its established system to match those in Denmark and Norway would not necessarily speed things up in Norway, according to Berg. That is because it could have resulted in Norway residents being forced to travel longer distances to be vaccinated.

“(Longer travel) could have been the consequence. It would have been more demanding to get especially old and sick people to travel a fair distance to get the (vaccine) doses,” he said.

Norway’s system could have some benefits, the NIPH consultant said.

“Getting the vaccine out to people where they live is good. And it could mean that we could succeed in getting a high level of coverage, we hope,” he added.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How fast are European countries vaccinating their populations?

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OSLO

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

Shopping 

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. 

Hospitality 

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. 

Schools 

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

Work

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. 

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