Covid ‘is over’ in Norway, health chief declares

The Covid-19 pandemic is over in Norway, according to one of the doctors leading the response against coronavirus in the rich Scandinavian country.

Preben Aavitsland, chief physician in the infection control division at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, tweeted on Sunday a graph showing Norway with its lowest infection rate since the end of last summer and wrote: “That is the pandemic over with.”

He added to newspaper VG: “Here in Norway, the pandemic is so to say over. We can start to prepare ourselves for corona taking very little space in our everyday lives.”

Norway has had one of the lowest infection rates in Europe throughout all three waves of the pandemic, helped by low population density and its relative isolation in northern Europe as well as decisive action by the government and health authorities each time infections started to rise.

Its cases and deaths have been significantly lower than neighbouring Sweden but also Denmark, which has taken a similar approach to Norway.

Aavitsland said that, with very few hospitalised due to Covid-19 and numbers continuing to decline due to rising vaccinations, there would only be localised outbreaks in Norway in the future. The authorities were well equipped to deal with these, he said.

“A fire chief would have said: the forest fire is out, and the danger for people and buildings is over, but there remains a little clearing up here and there, and we need to be vigilant,” he told state broadcaster NRK.

Prime minister Erna Solberg has credited Norwegians’ general trust in the authorities in helping with the Covid response, as well as its giant $1.3tn oil fund for easing its economic impact.

“What we have done right is that, first of all, we moved tough and hard at the start,” she told the Financial Times last month.

Aavitsland said it would still take several years for the pandemic to come under control globally and added that Norwegian authorities would increasingly offer their expertise outside their home country. “It isn’t over until it’s over for everyone,” he added.

Not all Norwegian health officials agree with his view that the pandemic has ended in Norway. Espen Nakstad, deputy director-general of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, warned that the pandemic was not “completely over” in Norway, and that people could not relax until all adults received their second vaccine doses in August or September.

“Then hopefully we can live very normally again, even if the pandemic is of course not completely over in Norway until it’s over in all countries,” he told NRK.

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