NIPH sums up the crown pandemic in Norway: immigrants, children, youth, and people in Oslo and Viken have paid a much higher price than the rest of the population.
Norway is among the countries that have recorded the fewest number of seriously ill people and deaths as a result of the pandemic.
But, what consequences has living with the virus and the contagion measures had for us for a year and a half?
The National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) has presented for the first time its version of the consequences of the pandemic for public health in Norway.
The very high differences in mortality
FHI is based on the premise that Norway is among the countries with the lowest mortality.
Norway could have had 10,000 deaths if the death rate had been the same as in the UK, according to FHI.
– But why are the differences so great, when Norway has largely introduced exactly the same infection measures as the British, only often a little later?
– We don’t have the definitive answer to that. I think we should be careful not to be skeptical about what the reasons are for the big differences, says Stoltenberg.
– We have seen that the intervention measures work, but we do not know the importance of when they were introduced, the general compliance of the population and if there are other conditions of which we do not have an overview.
It did not detect 140,000 infected
How many have actually been infected?
The infection is significantly higher than the official figures, reported of 192,000.
FHI now estimates that 332,000 people, 6 percent of the population, have been infected in Norway.
This means that almost 140,000 infected people went undetected during the pandemic.
That infection and mortality have been higher in Oslo and Viken is nothing new. But the differences may be greater than many realize.
- 61 percent of all infections in Norway occurred in two counties: Oslo and Viken. Here, too, mortality has been higher.
- Oslo has had 32 deaths per. 100,000 inhabitants. The corresponding figures are only 5 for Trøndelag and 7 for Rogaland.
An important explanation is the composition of the population. The pandemic hit immigrants the hardest.
– We have not established the final figures, but there is an important reason. There’s no question about that, says Stoltenberg.
Furthermore, Oslo has a younger population, a high proportion of students, and many migrant workers compared to other places.
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School closure generates ‘significant costs’
On March 12, 2020, the health director closed all primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools for 800,000 children.
- 1. – 4. Steps was homeschooled for six weeks. Students from fifth grade through high school had to be home for eight weeks.
- In retrospect, both health authorities and the government have admitted that schools were closed for too long.
Did politicians and authorities make the same mistake again in the spring of 2021?
According to FHI, 25 percent of schools have been partially or totally closed. But the differences have been enormous.
In Møre og Romsdal, 12% of schools were closed. In Oslo, the figure reached 60 percent.
It may have affected the mental health, well-being and learning of children and youth, believes FHI. But the knowledge base is still uncertain:
“It appears that closed schools have significant costs for some students in terms of learning, well-being and mental health. This applies to both elementary school, middle school and upper secondary school,” writes FHI.
Aftenposten has previously documented that upper secondary schools in Oslo had 58 days with fully digital school and red level in the previous semester.
Did politicians repeat the mistake of spring 2020 this spring?
Stoltenberg: – Should have closed schools to a lesser extent
The closing of the school this spring limited the infection among the youth, according to the director of FHI.
But she believes the intrusive measure lasted too long.
– That discussion is difficult because we don’t know what it would have been like if we had had a different level, says Stoltenberg.
– We must not be arrogant. But we think it could be managed with less strict restrictions in school and kindergarten, because it was about to have vaccinated the part of the population that was most exposed. And because children and young people themselves get seriously ill to a small extent, says Stoltenberg.
– It’s a political decision in the end. But we would have liked to have tried to downsize earlier and, to a lesser extent, close schools because it has such significant consequences, especially for the most vulnerable children and young people.
NIPH notes that the negative consequences of school closings affected differently.
In particular, parents’ education and financial status, minority backgrounds, disabilities, and school performance were important and negatively affected.
Infection among immigrants
NIPH notes that 40 percent of patients were born abroad from March 2020 to February 2021, even though they make up about 15 percent of the population.
Aftenposten has previously documented that 66.7 percent of corona patients in Oslo have an immigrant background.
The proportion of hospitalized patients has been highest among those born in Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia, Iraq, and Turkey.
People with backgrounds from African and Asian countries stand out as being at increased risk of death and respiratory use.
These numbers are cause for concern, believes FHI.
This group should not have been overrepresented in the statistics. The immigrant population in Norway is young and has very few people in the upper age groups.
FHI also states that there are fewer immigrants in the covid-19 risk group than among those born in Norway.
This image emerged early in the pandemic. Various measures and tens of millions were used. However, overrepresentation has increased.
Fifty percent of patients admitted in the past three months have been foreign-born, according to weekly FHI reports.
The big plus point is that the number of hospitals has fallen from the peak level in March 2021, both for those born in Norway and for immigrants.
FHI has identified several possible reasons.
An important explanation for the development in recent months may be that fewer people have been vaccinated in several large immigrant groups.
Why were immigrants most affected by the crown? The new responses should teach a lesson to both public employees and immigrant communities.
Pandemic, canceled exams and strike. For these students, more than half of the school days since Christmas have been entirely digital or at the red level.
Unemployed and health
Coronal unemployment hits young people the hardest in the Oslo area, according to a recent NIPH analysis of labor market figures from Nav and Statistics Norway.
Employees in the hotel industry and nightlife have had a very bad time. Employees of accommodation and catering establishments had a 25% reduction in working hours during the pandemic.
Within services, culture and transportation, the decrease in working hours is around nine percent, the NIPH report shows.
The NIPH has also analyzed the use of health services among people who had their working hours reduced during the pandemic.
This shows that there have been significant layoffs and an increase in unemployment at the same time as a marked increase in the use of primary and specialized health services for mental diagnosis.
FHI believes there is reason to believe that the loss of jobs during the pandemic has led to an increased level of mental illness.
Among people who experienced a large reduction in working hours, consultation use increased by as much as 50 percent during the pandemic.
On the other hand, recent analyzes show that the pandemic so far has not caused a notable increase in physical health problems.
– Could have better controlled the epidemic
The NIPH report shows that the knowledge base is still deficient in several areas.
An example is the health of immigrants. Stoltenberg believes that legislation and systems make it difficult to link health data and data on the status of immigrants. This has hampered research on immigrant health for years.
– I know, because I have experienced it many times, says Stoltenberg.
– We must find solutions to that.
Furthermore, the pandemic has also revealed significant deficiencies in Norwegian health data systems, which are used to monitor the pandemic.
– Now there are many technologically completely different solutions. Data cannot be collected or connected to each other, so in practice we cannot use it, says Stoltenberg.
– Therefore, we have a weak picture of the spread of the infection. The importance of such a data source can hardly be overstated. With better systems, we could have controlled the epidemic in a completely different way.
Infection hunters hunt for coronavirus in Norway. It happens with pencil and paper.