Coronavrius (Covid-19)

How We Dealt with Coronavirus: Norway

Norway’s prime minister says she regrets closing schools…


Frode Forland

Norway’s State Epidemiologist


I think we always had in mind that a new pandemic would spread like an influenza epidemic: that 25 per cent of the population would get seriously ill and the spread would eventually cover maybe 70 per cent of the population until you get herd immunity.  But when China imposed a strict lockdown on Wuhan, and the strategy was copied by other Asian countries, our team began to have second thoughts.  We thought: ‘this is working’. When that knowledge filtered into our systems, we had to revise our models. We thought, ‘there are other ways of dealing with this than just letting it go’.  

We saw there were a number of things there that were different in this epidemic from a normal influenza pandemic: It was much more contagious, and it was much more serious: the fatality was maybe being five times as high, and the infectiousness was maybe three times as high. There was also growing evidence of asymptomatic transmission. These discussions were taking place in early March between the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Directorate of Health, the Health Ministry, and the country’s advisory forum for preparedness.  But then Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, perhaps after seeing the decisive actions taken by her Danish counterpart, took the decision to seize control and put Monica Mæland, the Minister of Justice, in charge.  There was this lifting of the whole issue to the government, and then they said we need to take a whole of government approach and close down society, using a precautionary principle, to get control.


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