DISCLAIMER: This article is written in the best intentions to inform the reader about the situation in Norway, and the Nordic countries. However, I am a Norwegian citizen, which means this article will be colored by my perspective.
The Covid-19 epidemic has been spreading fast. Well over 2 million people have now contracted the virus worldwide. Each country experiences its challenges regarding the virus. However, several European countries have been taking a similar approach to mitigate an exponential growth of the virus and, thus, flatten the curve. Some of the adopted measures include lockdowns, closing schools, quarantines, closing borders etc. In my opinion, it’s crucial to choose the most efficient strategy to defeat the pandemic, both considering how many will get infected and the economic cost.
In this article, I will try to shed some light over the coronavirus situation in Norway, the several interventions from the government, main debates, and explain the different approaches taken by the Nordic countries: Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
Twelfth of March 2020, the world health organization (WHO) declared the outbreak, a global pandemic. Pandemic is defined as an epidemic of a disease that has spread worldwide.
On March 12th, one person in Norway had already been identified with the coronavirus.
The first phase of interventions came at that stage. This resulted in hard measures from the government, including closing schools, arrangements, and advising people to be working from home.
According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), there are over 6,800 Norwegians that have caught the virus, whereas 189 are in intensive care, and 137 people have died, as of 18 of April. However, testing is limited, which means these numbers may not be representative. One of the main reasons for limited testing, is the fact that Norway is applying a strategy where they place people in quarantine and isolation, to mitigate further spreading of the virus. And, thus, testing only people that have clear symptoms of lung problems for Covid-19. Additionally, limited tests are available.However, NIPH has reported a total of 136,236 tests in Norway. This means that 5 percent have tested positive. Therefore, one might expect more active cases. Also, the majority of cases in Norway, 4,700, are representative of an age between 20-59. This is positive, as research has shown that younger people have a better immune system to fight the virus, causing fewer deaths. Geographically, Norway is a country with relatively huge distances between areas. This is an important fact because we identify the most cases in the metropolitan areas, such as Oslo, which has almost 2,000 cases. In addition, Viken, which is an area around Oslo, has approximately 2,000 cases. Hence, these two places together have almost 4,000 cases, of the total 6,500 cases in Norway. In the West part of Norway, a region called Vestlandet, has reportedly over 700 cases.
The Nordic divide on coronavirus
It is no secret that Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have been taking different approaches to tackle the coronavirus. The Norwegian government, and Denmark, have been following a hard approach to mitigate an exponential growth of the virus, partially following the example of China and other European countries. Sweden, on the other hand, has been an advocate of a different approach, keeping their society open, without any hard measures so far.
Unfortunately, Sweden is also experiencing a higher number of deaths.
From the graph above, it becomes clear that Sweden and Denmark are the two Nordic countries with the highest number of confirmed deaths due to coronavirus. Nevertheless, Sweden has a larger population size than both Denmark and Norway, with its 10 million citizens. Denmark, on the other hand, has a population of approximately the same as Norway, with 5.5 million. Additionally, as mentioned above, the majority of Sweden’s infected, 8,000, are in the age between 50-90 years. Despite this, Sweden has, according to Worldometers, over 13,000 active cases, where Stockholm is the city with the most cases. Denmark has over 7,000 but the recovered are over 3,000. Norway has almost 7,000 active cases.
By comparing the amount of testing, we get a better perspective on the reliability of the number of people infected. The graph below shows an overview of the total tests for Covid-19 per 1,000 people. Norway is the country that has done the most testing, where Denmark being the country following the closest. According to Folkhälsomyndigheten, which is Sweden’s institute of health, there have been 74,600 tests in Sweden.
Sweden is not choosing to shut down their economy. However, they are still affected by the countries that do. Decreased global trade still harms the country’s economy. Keeping businesses and countries closed has been costing an enormous sum of money and will continue to cost a lot. The irony, though, is that Norway has come to this realization. As the prime minister, Erna Solberg, announced Friday 10th of April that Norway will try to open the society gradually as of 21 of april. On the contrary, Sweden is considering more strict interventions to reduce the number of deaths and infections. Denmark has been taking a similar approach as Norway, considering opening their society little by little.
The road ahead
By opening economic activities, we risk the possibility of more people getting infected. Nonetheless, it will keep a lot of people at work, reducing unemployment and, thus, reducing the number of people getting financial aid from the government. It is also important to note that keeping the society closed can have further consequences, such as mental illness and depression amongst people.
The prime minister, Erna Solberg, announced on Tuesday, the 7th of April, that the country will open gradually. Day-care centers will re-open from the 20th of April. Elementary schools will reopen nationwide for the youngest children as of the 27th of April, including high schools. Hair- and skincare-salons will also re-open from the 27th of April.Social distancing, and working from home, if possible, are still important restrictions. For those who will open, there is an expected mandatory regime, which includes frequent cleaning and sterilization multiple times a day.
Getting back to normal will be difficult. We still have a lot of challenging phases to go through. However, it’s necessary. What do you think? Should your country open, or should we keep our society closed until we know that the coronavirus is under complete control?
written by Sebastian Skaiaa