Ever-emerging variants of the Covid virus have infected thousands of Norwegians in recent weeks, filling up vaccination centers that were markedly quiet earlier this autum. Pharmacies also report brisk sales of Corona self-testing kits, although some health officials claim testing is now unnecessary.
“For the vast majority, it really doesn’t matter anymore if you’re sick with the flu or Covid,” Dr Ingebjørn Bleidvin, chief medical officer in Hadsel, Northern Norway, told state broadcaster NRK on Wednesday. “Most people can drop testing and save some money.”
The state health ministry officially changed the status of the Covid virus earlier this week, on the grounds it no longer is especially dangerous to the public. Many falling ill still seem to want to know whether they’ve been hit by Covid, even by another bout of the virus. “Sales of Corona tests are seven times higher than they were during the autumn holidays” in late September and early October, Silje Ensrud of the pharmacy chain Apotek 1 told NRK. “We haven’t sold so many testing kits since February 2022.”
Some pharmacies in Northern Norway, where there have been outbreaks of the virus, have seen their stocks almost depleted. Testing kits were once handed out for free by state and local health care agencies, but now they can cost as much as NOK 120 (around USD 12).
Only those with weak immune systems or those undergoing cancer treatments are still advised to get tested, to determine exactly which respiratory ailment they may have. State health officials are no longer collecting data or publishing new statistics on Corona cases, and postive test results aren’t recorded.
Officials are keen, however, to get all Norwegians age 65 and over vaccinated against new variants of the virus, along with those who have chronic diseases. Vaccination rates were also sluggish earlier this fall, and public health institute FHI was concerned that too few were getting their booster shots. A sharp rise in infection has since sent many flocking to vaccination centers, where booster shots remain free of charge.
Oslo’s large vaccination center in the capital’s Nydalen district was among those suddenly facing such long lines that it suspended its “drop-in” service and is currently requiring appointments. The first available slots were at least a week away.