24,000 Norwegians registered mild coronavirus-like symptoms within a few hours of a new online reporting tool going live. The health authority wants everyone with respiratory symptoms to register.
Norway's health system is being stretched as coronavirus cases mount up and the number of hospitalised cases continues to rise. To prioritise the use of limited capacity, only people in high-risk groups are being tested.
But this means that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has no reliable way of tracking the wider spread and impact of the disease. To try and remedy that, the Institute has launched an online self-reporting tool.
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Within a few hours of the tool launching on Sunday, more than 24,000 people had registered symptoms. “We see that we need information on the symptoms of respiratory disease in order to understand the extent of the symptoms in the population over time,” Gun Peggy Knudsen, FHI's Director of Health Data and Digitization told NRK.
How & why to use the online tool
The questionnaire is only available in Norwegian here, but foreigners living in Norway should also fill it out if appropriate. It asks several questions about symptoms, any underlying conditions, whether you have had any contact with a healthcare professional, and so on. You need to authenticate yourself with BankID or BuyPass ID in order to submit the form.
Important: This tool is not a diagnosis tool, and it does not replace contact with a GP. It is purely a data collection tool and you do not receive feedback.
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If you require healthcare, consult the webpage of your GP to understand the current process in place. Many GPs are offering consultations online or by phone.
Unprecedented levels of health data
By FHI encouraging anyone with symptoms to register, an unprecedented amount of data will be available to better understand the potential spread of the virus.
The data provides a key input to this understanding, along with lab tests results and reports of possible infections via GPs. Kundsen said they are not looking to get a figure of possible infections, but more to track if and how reports of respiratory symptoms spread over time.
Do you have privacy concerns? Here is what FHI says about the data:
It may be appropriate to combine this information with information in public health registers, such as the Norwegian Patient Register and the Notification System for Infectious Diseases, as well as Statistics Norway's registries. This is to get the best possible analysis and quality control. The information is stored and processed in accordance with current privacy rules.
The public health institute will be responsible for the processing of personal data. The information is stored indefinitely. You have the right to see what information has been stored about you and what the information has been used for. Participation is voluntary, and you can withdraw your consent at any time and request that the information be deleted. It will not be possible to recognize individuals in published statistics or research. Results will only be published on groups and never on an individual level.
High number of reports doesn't mean high number of cases
Despite the high numbers of reports received on Sunday, the health authority says that does not mean there are tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases. Knudsen said that it's important to distinguish between respiratory symptoms and coronavirus:
“We certainly believe that there are a lot of people who have the usual flu, colds, allergies or other things, which can cause similar symptoms. We have tested many with respiratory infections lately. Less than 5% of these have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
FHI is clear that this is not health care. You do not receive any feedback on what you sign up for. If you need health care, you should follow other advice to see your doctor.