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HEALTH

COVID UPDATE: Sweden bans travel from Norway

The Swedish government announced a travel ban on entry from Norway on Sunday, to reduce the risk of the new variant of coronavirus spreading.

COVID UPDATE: Sweden bans travel from Norway
A deserted Oslo, Norway. Photo: Terje Pedersen/NTB

“The ban applies from midnight until February 14th and can be extended if necessary,” Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said at a digital press conference on Sunday afternoon.

The entry ban from the United Kingdom and Denmark is also extended until February 14th.

At the same time, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is reintroducing the advice against unnecessary travel to Norway. The decision is valid until further notice.

In December, Sweden announced a ban on travel into Sweden from both the UK and Denmark due to the new variant, that was due to initially last a month.

Exceptions from the government's decision apply to those who work in Sweden or have urgent family needs, as well as to freight traffic.

On Saturday January 23rd, the Norwegian government introduced a series of very strict restrictions in Oslo and nine more municipalities due to an outbreak of a more contagious coronavirus variant, first identified in Britain.

This variant already exists in Sweden. So far, about 50 cases have been confirmed, the vast majority of them are linked to people who have been abroad, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency.

The government's decision on the Norway travel ban follows a recommendation from the Swedish Public Health Agency.

“It is an exceptional decision, not least considering the long land border between the countries,” Interior Minister Damberg said.

He added it was now important to closely follow the development of how the mutated virus has spread in Norway and pointed out the capacity to detect virus mutations had been built up in Sweden but needed to be stepped up further:

“We have not received any reports of any major clusters in Sweden,” he said.

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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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