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COVID-19

Covid-19 in Norway can now be compared to the flu thanks to vaccines, says health chief

Coronavirus can now be categorised as one of several respiratory illnesses with seasonal variation thanks to the success of the country's vaccination campaign, Geir Bukholm, infection control director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), has said. 

Covid-19 in Norway can now be compared to the flu thanks to vaccines, says health chief
Covid-19 can now be compared to flu according to the assistant director of the NIPH. Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

For the past year and a half, Covid-19 has been classed as a generally dangerous disease. However, this could change soon as the assistant director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Geir Bukholm, has said the coronavirus can now be put in the same category as illnesses such as flu, common colds and RS (respiratory syncytial virus). 

“We are now in a new phase where we must look at the coronavirus as one of several respiratory diseases with seasonal variation,” Bukholm told paper VG

Last week the Ministry of Health and Social Care asked the NIPH to assess whether Covid-19 was still a dangerous disease.  

While the NIPH has yet to return its findings, its assistant director has made it clear that the danger of Covid will be downgraded. 

Covid could now be compared in severity with the likes of colds and flu because the vast majority of those at most risk of developing severe disease when infected are now fully vaccinated. 

“This is because the vast majority of those at risk are protected,” Bukholm explained. 

“And although the infection is still circulating, hospital numbers remain low. Thus, the coronavirus will not lead to a heavy burden on the health service. For those vaccinated who may become infected and develop symptoms, the vast majority will have mild cold-like symptoms.”

However, Bukholm did warn that even though Covid could now be compared with other common respiratory illnesses, the pandemic was far from over. 

READ ALSO: Norway expects more children with respiratory illnesses this winter

“The pandemic is not over as long as it exists in the world and in countries where the vaccine coverage is still low. As long as the diseases spread throughout the world, there is still a pandemic,” Bukholm cautioned. 

Last week health minister Bent Høie offered a glimpse at what Norway would look like once measures were lifted but didn’t offer a date for when restrictions would be lifted.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

All Covid travel rules for Norway have been completely lifted for a while now- but what happens if you test positive or start to develop Covid symptoms while you are here?

Tourists: What to do if you catch Covid-19 in Norway 

Covid travel rules in Norway have been lifted for a while, and all but a few recommendations remain domestically. This is a far cry from a similar time last year when Norway had very strict travel rules in place. 

Testing

Close contacts of Covid infected are not required to get a test, meaning if you have been in contact with somebody with Covid-19, you will not be required to get tested under the official rules. 

However, if you wish to take a test, you can buy self-tests at supermarkets and pharmacies. You can also order Covid-19 tests from Norwegian municipalities if you want a PCR test. You can find the contact information for every municipality in Norway here. Facemasks are also widely available in shops and pharmacies. 

Several private providers, such as Volvat and Dr Dropin, offer antigen and PCR tests with results within 24 hours. However, municipality tests can take longer to deliver results. If you need a test to travel home, you will not be able to get one from a local authority. These tests are only for those with symptoms of Covid-19.  

Home tests will not cost more than 60 kroner from supermarkets, while a municipality test will be free. However, private providers’ tests are pricier, costing between 1,000 and 1,500 kroner at most private clinics.

Isolation

There are also no specific rules in regards to isolation. 

“If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay at home until you feel well. If you feel well, you can live as normal,” Helsenorge advises on its websiteMeaning that if you are asymptomatic, you aren’t advised to isolate. 

Other symptoms which you may need to isolate with include headache and blocked nose and influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat and feeling unwell. 

The isolation information means you will need to liaise with the hotel or accommodation you are staying at. 

Travellers are advised to check what their insurance covers before taking out a policy to avoid being left out of pocket if they have to pay for new flights or an extended stay because they are isolating. 

If you test positive, you are also advised to steer clear of those in risk groups. 

Self-isolation advice applies regardless of vaccination status or previous infection. 

What else should I know? 

If your symptoms get worse, the best course of practice would be to contact a standard GP.

You can also contact the out-of-hours urgent care number on 116 117. This will put you through to the nearest urgent care centre to you. Visitors can also call for an ambulance on 113, but this is only advisable in life-threatening situations, such as a stroke or cardiac arrest.

In addition to checking your insurance policy, you also will need to check the rules of the country you are returning to or travelling through in case you may need a test to enter. 

If you have an EHIC card and receive medical care after testing positive for Covid-19, you will only be required to pay the same subsidised fees Norwegians do for healthcare. Despite this, European citizens are also advised to take out travel insurance. 

Non-European visitors are entitled to urgent medical care but will need to pay the full cost with no prospect of reimbursement if they don’t have health insurance. 

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