UPDATED 23 JAN: Oslo returns to a shutdown state as the mutated British virus variant starts to spread. Norway has begun nationwide vaccination but most restrictions remain in place. A test is now mandatory for anyone arriving in Norway. Read on for details.
I know a lot of people in Norway remain concerned about the latest coronavirus news, along with people planning a trip. So, here's everything you need to know about the spread of the virus and how Norway is reacting.
I'm getting a lot of emails from people asking questions about COVID-19 in Norway. I don't have the capacity—or the authority, for that matter—to answer personal questions, so I've put together this page with everything I do know.
Before asking personal questions in the comments, please understand that I don't have any additional information.
I'm trying to keep this page updated at least twice a week. However, this is a fast-moving situation, so do check the various links for the very latest information from the official sources. You should also check whether you should be in home quarantine, and what exactly that means.
The latest infection numbers in Norway
There have been 60,565 positive cases in Norway at the time of writing, with 544 people now confirmed dead.
There are 131 people hospitalised around the country. In mid-October, only 22 people were hospitalised. Of those currently in hospital, 41 are in intensive care.
Around Norway: All of Norway's counties have recorded at least 800 positive test results. The most are in Viken (19,423), followed by Oslo (16,526), Vestland (6,107), Trøndelag (3,380) and Rogaland (3,374). So far, Nordland (888), Møre og Romsdal (1,165) and Troms og Finnmark (1,228) have recorded the fewest positive test results.
The latest measures in Norway
LATEST: On January 23, Norway’s government announced a return to shutdown status for Oslo and several other municipalities. All schools and the vast majority of shops will close and all events are banned until the end of January.
On January 18, Norway's prime minister Erna Solberg announced that most of the national restrictions introduced on January 3 would be extended. However, some measures are being eased.
Most notably, private individuals are permitted to have house guests once again. Restrictions on schools and leisure activities for children and young people have also been loosened.
“The goal is, among other things, to make life for children and young people a little more predictable. We have chosen to prioritize children and young people. This has been one of our most important priorities during the entire pandemic,” said Erna Solberg.
In private gatherings outside your own home you can have 10 people indoors, 20 people outdoors. The ban on alcohol serving remains in place for at least one more week.
The latest on travel, border & quarantine restrictions
New mandatory testing: From January 2, 2021, all arrivals in Norway will be subject to mandatory testing. Travellers must enter through border stations with testing facilities or police control.
“We are now concerned about import infection as well as new outbreaks with new mutated versions of the virus. In addition, we are concerned that many will return to Norway after Christmas from countries with an increased level of infection,” said Solberg.
Who can enter Norway? Arrivals from many European (EU/EEA/Schengen) countries had been able to enter Norway with no quarantine requirement since July 15, but things are now quite different.
Norway categorises European countries as “red” if they are experiencing an increasing level of infections. Arrivals from these “red countries” will have to quarantine for 10 days, essentially ruling out tourism from those countries. You can read the full story here with the official guidelines from FHI available here.
There are some exceptions to the entry requirements for those wishing to visit close family members or partners in Norway, for students and for some business travel. However, in most cases the quarantine period must still be served.
However, the border closure remains in place to everyone else with some exceptions for students, and business travel. I know this is frustrating for many people, as I keep getting emails asking when the border will be back open for non-Europeans.
Before writing, please understand that I have no more information other than what is written here. Please don't ask me to guess.
Domestic air travel is possible, but many routes remain limited. Face masks are now mandatory inside Oslo Airport.
Finally, an important note for British citizens. Throughout the pandemic so far, the UK has still been classed as an EU/EEA country. However, following the conclusion of the Brexit transition process on December 31, 2020, the UK will no longer be included in the above guidance. This means that travel from the UK to Norway for those not resident in Norway will be much more difficult. Contact the British Embassy for the latest information.
Norway’s vaccination process
The first 9,750 doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech were distributed to seven municipalities in eastern Norway, including Oslo. Approximately 140,000 doses have been delivered to Norway to date.
“This is a very important day for Norway, and I am glad that we have now received the vaccine,” said FHI’s Camilla Stoltenberg upon receipt of the first doses in December, 2020.
As of 23 January, 73,844 vaccine doses have been administered in Norway. That amounts to 1.38 per 100 inhabitants.
Coronavirus in Norway: The story so far
The first coronavirus case in Norway was registered in a resident of Tromsø on 26 February. The individual had recently returned from China. They were not seriously ill and were placed under home quarantine. Many of the early cases were then recorded in the Oslo region, including six employees of the eye department at Oslo’s Ullevaal Hospital.
Read more: Healthcare in Norway
In the early days of the outbreak in Norway, the majority of people who have tested positive were either infected abroad or are close contacts of someone who was. In most cases, the infected person had returned from an area of Europe with a major outbreak, such as northern Italy.
However, that soon changed and the proportion of infections passed on in Norway or with no known source increased rapidly.
Just a couple of weeks after the first known infection in Norway, the Norwegian government took drastic steps. They introduced the strictest emergency measures ever seen outside of wartime.
Previously, Norway's Directorate of Health said there were plans in place that would cover a scenario whereby up to 25% of Norway's population became infected. In this scenario, other hospital treatment would have to be postponed to enable hundreds of thousands of additional patients to be treated.
Read more: What's Next For Norway's Travel Industry?
With the number of cases increasing rapidly, the government introduced emergency measures to try and stem the spread of the virus. All educational establishments were closed, along with many workplaces, many shops, bars, restaurants, pubs and other public services. Supermarkets and pharmacies were among the few businesses to remain open.
What to do if you experience symptoms
In Norway: Do not call 113. In the first instance, you can call a health information line on 815 55 015. If you believe you are infected, call your GP. Do not visit the doctor's office in person. Only if you cannot contact your GP, call the emergency room (legevakt) at 116 117.
Read more: Healthcare in Norway
The capacity for testing is now greatly increased. Many municipalities have started drop-in test centres with results typically available within 24-48 hours. However for those without their own transport, home testing is also an option. See the website of your local municipality or refer to your GP for more information.
Where else is impacted?
The new virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China at the end of December 2019. Since then, the virus has spread around the world. According to figures from the World Health Organization, 98.8 million cases and 2,118,140 deaths have been reported so far.
The virus has hit hard in the USA, where more than 424,000 deaths have been reported. The UK (95,500) and Italy (84,500) are the hardest-hit countries in Europe. Brazil (215,000), India (153,000) and Mexico (147,500) are also badly hit.
What is coronavirus?
According to the WHO, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, and there are several known types that have not yet infected humans. The current outbreak concerns COVID-19.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard precautions from the WHO include regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking all meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.