Why Norway has reclassified COVID and returned to ‘normal everyday life’

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A student at Holtet high school in Oslo receives the first dose of Pfizer vaccine against covid-19 in the school’s auditorium on September 7, 2021. (Photo by HEIKO JUNGE/NTB/AFP via Getty Images)

OSLO, Norway – Last week, the Norwegian government announced a return to “normal everyday life” and removed all domestic COVID-19 restrictions. In short, the country has enough of a handle on COVID that the nation’s health officials have put it on par with influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) for the upcoming winter months.

This news has been misinterpreted—willfully or unintentionally—by some as a sign that the rest of the world—the United States, in particular—can get back to normal as well.

Statements and headlines declaring Norway has “reclassified COVID” as “no more dangerous than the common flu” are an oversimplification and simply not true.

In an interview with a Norwegian media outlet, Geir Bukholm, the assistant director of the NIPH, said COVID-19 has joined the ranks of other respiratory diseases. In the same interview, Bukholm plainly states the pandemic is not over but that Norway has such good vaccine coverage that it has reduced hospitalizations and strain on the nation’s health care system.

Newsweek reached out to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health for clarification. The NIPH said Bukholm’s comments have been misinterpreted and in no way are COVID and the flu similar; it means the level of preparedness against both illnesses can now be treated similarly.

In Norway, 90.7% of the 18+ population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 84.3% of the same population is fully vaccinated. In the United States, those numbers are 77.1% and 66.7%, respectively.

And while Norway has moved on from focusing on infections and opted to spend more of its energies on vaccinating the populace and reducing hospitalizations, the nation still reports far fewer COVID cases per million citizens than the U.S. Hospitalizations are also very high in the United States.

Norwegian officials say it’s still important for citizens to maintain hand hygiene and cough etiquette, and to stay at home if they’re being tested or are sick.

The news from Norway points to vaccines being the reason behind the “return to normal” in that country.

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