News story | Date: 27/03/2020 | Ministry of Health and Care Services
The Government will allocate more than NOK 2 billion to the development of vaccines to protect us against pandemics. New digital solutions are being developed to make COVID-19 contact tracing easier.
‘Research that enables us to develop vaccines against COVID-19 and other pandemic diseases is vital. We must also take steps to make vaccines available to people all over the world,’ said Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
More countries urged to contribute
Norway has played a key role in building up the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which supports and coordinates activities to improve the response to epidemics and pandemics and to advance the development of vaccines against infectious diseases. The Government is increasing funding for CEPI by NOK 2 billion over the next 10 years. CEPI is supporting research on vaccines against COVID-19, and one vaccine candidate is already being tested.
The funding is being allocated through a special financial mechanism that will give CEPI immediate access to the funding. The Government has allocated a total of NOK 2.236 billion to vaccine development since the COVID-19 outbreak started. This is in addition to long-term funding for CEPI that had already been approved.
‘It is vital to do what we can to enable CEPI to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as rapidly as possible. In addition to allocating extra funding, the Norwegian Government is contacting colleagues in other countries to urge them to provide more funding for CEPI’s vital efforts,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
‘In the time ahead, we must ensure that any vaccine that is developed is quickly and fairly distributed, especially to vulnerable groups and the poorest countries,’ said Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein.
Increasing the capacity of the health care system
On Friday, the Government also presented a number of other measures to limit the spread of infection and treat and monitor people who have contracted COVID-19. These measures are considered to be vital for reducing the spread of infection, and can be introduced rapidly.
‘Health services are facing a very challenging situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All our efforts now are focused on ensuring that people who become seriously ill can receive the right treatment. Norway has a high-quality health service, and we are working to increase capacity and shift the focus of our efforts in order to be as prepared as possible for what we may have to deal with,’ said the Minister of Health and Care Services.
Other health-related measures during the COVID-19 pandemic
NOK 80 million allocated to three digitalisation initiatives
This allocation will be split between three initiatives. One is a mobile app that is being developed for contact tracing, in other words identifying people who have had close contact with infected patients. The digital solution for people to report their own symptoms, launched by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, is to be further developed. And thirdly, funding will be provided for remote medical consultations and follow-up of patients at home using video communication.
NOK 40 million allocated for advanced simulation equipment. This will be used to train health care personnel in intensive care medicine, and increase the capacity of the health care system to train personnel to provide intensive care for critically ill patients.
NOK 5 million for the expansion of Norway’s intensive care registry. The plan is to develop an intensive care and pandemic registry. Data from Norwegian hospitals in the intensive care registry will provide the basis for reports to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health as part of COVID-19 monitoring in Norway. The data can also be used to keep track of critical care capacity.
NOK 8 million has been allocated to update and distribute medical guidelines using the digital tool MAGIC. This tool makes it possible to update and distribute guidelines quickly to hospitals and municipal health and care services. The guidelines cover areas such as diagnosis, treatment of different patient groups and routines for infection prevention and control for health care personnel.
Changes to the fees that can be charged
The changes allow A&E departments to charge fees for e-consultations, and for the GPs patients are registered with to use e-consultation fees in the evening as well as at other times. GPs and specialists who have a practice agreement with the municipality can charge the same fees for telephone consultations as for e-consultations.
These changes apply to:
- Doctors (both the GPs patients are registered with and specialists with a practice agreement with the municipality);
- Psychologists in the specialist health service who have a practice agreement with the municipality;
- Reimbursement for lab analyses.
Sound and predictable municipal economy
The Government considers it important that the economic situation for the municipalities continues to be sound and predictable. This is a vital basis for providing the population with good services. Municipal health and care services will need greater capacity to deal with the pandemic, and a number of municipalities are facing increases in costs, particularly for personal protective equipment and the services of health care personnel. The Government will consider these matters as part of its overall evaluation of allocations to the municipalities in connection with the revised national budget for 2020.