Norway insists it hasn’t ‘reclassified’ Covid-19 as flu

Crowds of diners at an al fresco restaurant bar enjoying the summer sunshine in Oslo (Getty)
Crowds of diners at an al fresco restaurant bar enjoying the summer sunshine in Oslo (Getty)

The Norwegian health authorities have clarified reports they are ‘reclassifying’ the coronavirus as just another form of flu.

The Scandinavian country has relaxed its Covid rules as vaccinations ramp up and the virus recedes.

But it wants to make it clear it is not treating a Covid infection the same as the common cold.

‘It is not correct that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health [NIPH] has claimed that ‘Covid-19 is no more dangerous than ordinary flu.’ This statement is probably a misinterpretation of this interview in a large Norwegian newspaper,’ a spokesperson from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) told IFLScience.

The article in question came from a Norwegian tabloid newspaper called VG back in September. The story featured a comment from Geir Bukholm, the Deputy Director-General of NIPH, saying: ‘We are now in a new phase where we must look at the coronavirus as one of several respiratory diseases with seasonal variation.’

At the end of September, the country removed most of its social distancing guidelines.

The NIPH spokesperson added: ‘Our position, as stated in the news article, is that at this point in the pandemic we must start approaching Covid-19 as one of several respiratory diseases circulating with seasonal variation. This means that the control measures that will be applicable for various respiratory diseases will require the same level of societal preparedness.’

‘This does not mean that illness from coronavirus and the seasonal flu are similar.’

Norway's capital city, Oslo (Getty)
Norway’s capital city, Oslo (Getty)

When the pandemic struck last year, Norway acted quickly to shut down schools and sporting events and instituted a lockdown.

‘Just one day after my arrival the Norwegian government imposed a lockdown to contain Covid-19. It felt like a real shock as the UK had barely put any restrictions in place at this point – large gatherings were still allowed and people hadn’t been told to avoid pubs, clubs and restaurants. I just didn’t see this coming,’ resident Lucia Posteraro told Metro.co.uk last year.

‘Schools and restaurants were closed, and anyone coming from abroad had to respect a 14-day quarantine. When I called Norway’s coronavirus public information number, I was told to follow the advice and quarantine, even though I had arrived before the announcement was made.’

Norway was quick to impose a lockdown once Covid struck (Getty)
Norway was quick to impose a lockdown once Covid struck (Getty)

‘Considering the UK government’s response to coronavirus, I’m nothing but happy about my accidental stay. Norway went into lockdown on the same day the country had its first Covid-19 related death and two weeks after its first domestic case.

‘In comparison, the UK went into lockdown on 23 March, after 359 deaths had already been reported and almost four weeks after the country’s first documented case.’

In total, Norway has recorded 191,000 coronavirus cases and 861 deaths against a population of 5.4 million people.

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