UPDATED 17 MAY: Norway officially drops the Astra Zeneca vaccine and will move young adults up the priority queue. Development of a digital Covid certificate to fast-track a return to normal life and lift travel restrictions in underway.
It's hard to believe I've been keeping this page updated for a year now. When Norway's first peacetime nationwide lockdown was introduced in March 2020, I don't think many of us thought we would be in this position a year later.
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.
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 to official sources that I have included throughout the article for the very latest information.
Before asking personal questions in the comments, please understand that I don't have any additional information. In particular, asking me when the borders will open is pointless.
The latest infection numbers in Norway
Norway's numbers are lower than many other European countries. However, recent new strains of the virus have concerned Norwegian authorities. In early March, the capital city recorded a new daily high for positive test results.
There have been 119,437 positive cases in Norway at the time of writing, with 774 people now confirmed dead.
There are 101 people hospitalised around the country, of which 36 are in intensive care. Both numbers have dropped steadily over the past month, although there has been a slight increase this week.
Around Norway: All of Norway's counties have recorded at least 1,500 positive test results. The most are in Viken (41,295), followed by Oslo (34,887), Vestland (9,515), Vestfold & Telemark (7,343) and Rogaland (6,335).
So far, Nordland (1,532), Troms og Finnmark (1,600) and Møre og Romsdal (1,923) have recorded the fewest positive test results.
The latest measures in Norway
Norway's strict national measures have introduced ahead of the Easter vacation have now been ended, reverting to the measures that were previously in place. This includes a limit on house guests and a ban on most public events.
Shops are permitted to open along with pubs, bars and restaurants that serve food. Social distancing recommendations of at least one metre remain in place.
Face coverings should be worn on public transport. The government still recommends all public and private employees to use ‘home office' for everyone able to do so. The latest restrictions are detailed here in full.
Some local restrictions are in place, especially in the bigger cities, although Oslo's stricter measures are now in the process of being lifted. I strongly advise you to check local restrictions with your local kommune (municipality).
The latest on travel, border & quarantine restrictions
Border closure: The Norwegian border is closed to almost all non-residents in a bid to halt the further spread of coronavirus variants into Norway. Only urgent personal travel and socially-critical business travel is permitted. Read the full story here.
For those who can travel, a recent negative Covid-19 test certificate is required upon arrival. Domestic air travel is possible, but many routes remain limited.
At the time of writing, the vast majority of people arriving in Norway must undergo a 10-day quarantine period. Anyone arriving in Norway after non-urgent travel must implement their travel quarantine at a quarantine hotel.
I keep getting emails asking when the border will be back open for non-Europeans. Please understand that I have no more information other than what is written here. Please don't ask me to guess.
Finally, an important note for British citizens. Throughout 2020, the UK was still classed as an EU/EEA country. However, following the conclusion of the Brexit transition process, the UK is no longer classed as an EU/EEA country. This means that travel from the UK to Norway for those not resident in Norway will be more difficult. Contact the British Embassy for the latest information.
Norway's reopening plan
On 7 April, Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg announced a four-step plan to reopen the country. The plan will be enacted based on a review of infection numbers, healthcare capacity and vaccination progress.
Following this plan, Solberg has announced plans for a so-called vaccine passport or digital certificate. When implemented, this should enable the four-phase plan to be fast-tracked.
The digital record will show proof of identity, test status, vaccine status plus any immunity. It will be used for events and travel. Precise details of implementation are not yet available, but Solberg hopes it will be ready by early June.
Norway’s vaccination process
Approximately 2.44 million doses have been delivered to Norway to date.
As of 17 May, 2.16 million vaccine doses have been administered in Norway. 29.24% of the population have received at least one dose, with 10.92% now fully vaccinated.
On 12 May, the Norwegian government confirmed it is dropping the AstraZeneca vaccine from the program, two months after it was suspended over blood clot fears.
The government has also announced a change in prioritisation for vaccines. Once everyone over 45 has received the vaccine, those in the age group 18-24 will be next in line.
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.
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.
Read more: Healthcare in Norway
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.
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.
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.
Coronavirus around the world
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, 163.8 million cases and 3,395,241 deaths have been reported so far.
The virus has hit hard in the USA, where more than 600,000 deaths have been reported. The UK (127,500) and Italy (124,000) are the hardest-hit countries in Europe. Brazil (435,500), India (274,000) and Mexico (220,000) 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.