Article | Last updated: 02/12/2021
The Norwegian Government has revised the current strategy and emergency preparedness plan for the COVID-19 pandemic. The overarching objective of the strategy is to keep the pandemic in check. Both national and local authorities must closely monitor the situation and quickly implement measures as needed.
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Norway moved to normal everyday life with increased emergency preparedness after the reopening on 25 September. The pandemic has proven to be unpredictable and everyday life continues to be affected by the pandemic. Society is facing a new situation with rising infection rates and a great burden on the health and care service. Currently there is a need to tighten some measures, which is why the Norwegian Government is introducing several national measures.
The strategy is based on the previous strategy, but has been updated in several important areas. The overarching objective of the strategy now is to keep the pandemic in check, so that the disease burden does not become substantial, and the health and care service is not overwhelmed. At the same time, public services must operate at an appropriate level, and the economy must be protected.
The pandemic is creating a difficult situation for the health and care services. It is important that the hospitals and the municipal health service are not overwhelmed. The Norwegian Government’s strategy therefore emphasises control and the need for the national health authorities to quickly be able to upscale and downscale measures according to the situation at any given time.
In order to achieve this, the municipalities and other players must maintain a certain level of preparedness in order to be able to quickly implement measures. Emergency preparedness is an important tool in order to be able to quickly respond to a need to keep the pandemic in check.
The steering indicators to be applied to the assessment of risks and measures have been adjusted and clarified in the strategy. The following six steering indicators will be applied when assessing measures:
- number of new hospital admissions and number of patients already admitted (total occupancy rate);
- admissions to intensive care units;
- age distribution of admitted patients;
- treatment capacity at hospitals;
- capacity of the municipal health and care services;
- vaccination rate;
- infection rate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be unpredictable and there continues to be great uncertainty regarding further developments in the pandemic and the virus. The strategy describes three possible pandemic scenarios.
- A low rate of hospital admissions and no considerable impact on society of transmission.
- A somewhat higher level of admissions and transmission which affects society to some extent.
- A high level of admissions and transmission which affects society to a serious extent.
These are possible pandemic scenarios, and great uncertainty is associated with them. Five factors in particular may affect the development of the pandemic: the level of protection after vaccination or recovery, transmission of the virus in the winter, new virus variants with different properties, the population’s compliance with infection control advice, and the incidence of other respiratory infections.
Monitoring and preparedness
In order to retain control, it is important that the local and national authorities closely monitor the situation and introduce measures when necessary. The Norwegian Government has therefore decided to keep the current level of emergency preparedness until the end of April 2022.
The TISK work (test-isolate-trace-and-quarantine) has been critical in order to keep the pandemic in check. Municipalities and the health authorities must maintain emergency preparedness in order to be able to distribute rapid antigen tests to 10% of the population per week. They should also maintain preparedness to test 1% of the population per week and be able to increase capacity to 5% of the population per week.