UPDATED: Norwegian health authorities want to further ease the few Corona-related restrictions that remain. Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 won’t even be asked to stay home for four days, like they are now, and local testing centers may be scaled back from May 1.
The goal is to simply learn to live with the Corona virus in line with other infectious diseases. Dr Bjørn Guldvog, who leads the state health directorate, has proposed that government authorities continue to phase out special Corona containment measures.
Guldvog and his colleagues think it will be sufficient to merely advise anyone with virus-like symptoms to call in sick, just as they should if they got the flu. Self-testing can be important in a transition period but is no longer seen as necessary to control infection. While the health authorities recommended phasing testing centers out by May 1, though, Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol said she wants local governments to maintain Corona preparedness and ability to offer PCR testing to 1 percent of their populations. They will be compensated for the service by the state.
Relieving local government responsibilty
Public health institute FHI had recommended that the state government evaluate whether local governments should still be held responsible for offering testing for Corona certificates. An alternative is to let other private health care providers offer them when needed, so as not to overburden public sector health care facilities including Norwegians’ primary care physicians.
Both FHI and the state health directorate were asked by the government’s health ministry to evaluate how Norway should handle the next or final phases of the pandemic. They generally agree that a transition from government-controlled- to clinical testing can begin now. Only a 14-day period of informing the public about the change in testing regimes was viewed as necessary.
While some local testing stations may still close, local governments are being urged to continue offering free rapid testing kits for home use until September 1. It’s recommended that local municipalities also continue to distribute free home-testing kits to those in high-risk groups, or those having close contact with people at risk for Corona infection, through to the end of the year.
FHI, meanwhile, has drawn up four scenarios for the pandemic, all of them aimed at learning to live with the Covid-19 virus and and its variants. The best scenario involves a lack of any serious illness, little seasonal effect and only a moderate spread of the virus in the fall and winter. Another optimistic scenario involves the spread of a mild variant like Omicron that doesn’t make people seriously ill, but may blossom gain in the autumn.
A third more pessimistic scenario involves a new variant that’s at least as contagious as Omicron but also doesn’t make those infected seriously ill. The worst scenario involes a new variant that also spreads quickly and can make people seriously ill again. If such a variant arrives in Norway and begins to dominate, it can result in a new wave of illness that also could demand new restrictions.
“We will in the time ahead live with the virus, normalize society, continue to vaccinate those needing it, follow developments closely and improve preparedness,” FHI wrote in its new report. Health Minister Kjerkol, who delivered a Corona status report to the Parliament on Tuesday, cautioned that the pandemic is not over: “There is still great uncertainty about how infection will develop, what new variants we can meet and when they may appear. That’s why there’s still a need for good surveillance and preparedness, so that an unfortunate development can be discovered, evaluated and handled early.”