Increased use of mass testing in order to reopen society

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The Norwegian Government will use mass testing more actively in the reopening of society. Children and adolescents in areas with a high rate of infection will be prioritised. The Norwegian Directorate of Health will be responsible for a national system for mass testing in order to use resources efficiently and achieve good coordination.

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"The rate of infection in Norway remains high. Mass testing could be an important tool for gaining an overview of the extent of infections and reopening Norway more quickly. We are currently establishing a national system for mass testing. We will initially prioritise children and adolescents in areas with a high rate of infection", says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) believe that regular mass testing of selected groups, with subsequent isolation and contact tracing following a positive test result would lead to a reduction in infections. Among other things, mass testing can be used to keep schools, university colleges, and universities open in a way that safeguards infection control.

Children and adolescents first
Mass testing, which entails systematic testing of a group of people without prior individual assessments in connection with suspicion of infection or illness, is already in use in several countries. There are several mass testing pilot programmes in Norway, some of which are at schools and universities in Oslo and Bergen.

The national system consists of three phases. Children, adolescents, and students, as well as employees and parents at primary schools and kindergartens, have been given priority. Phase 1 covers districts and municipalities with a high rate of infection, corresponding to the NIPH's risk level 5. Phase 2 covers districts and municipalities corresponding to the NIPH's risk level 4. The content of phase 3 will be defined later.

"The Norwegian Directorate of Health will be responsible for managing this work to ensure effective use of limited resources, such as test equipment, and good coordination. Among other things, the Directorate will decide what situations mass testing will be used in, provide adequate amounts of test material, and maintain a good dialogue with the municipalities", says Mr Høie.

Voluntary testing
Participation in mass testing will be voluntary, both for municipalities and individuals. For children, testing will require parental consent.