The goal of the strategy is to protect life and health, while keeping society open and the economy functioning as normally as possible. Good monitoring, capacity and preparedness are required to detect and handle different scenarios for the future.

“We have taken back everyday life. Now we will normalize our attitude to COVID-19 and the way we handle it. This means that the Norwegian government, as a general rule, will no longer make decisions on infection control measures. The main responsibility for giving advice on covid-19 will lie with the National Institute of Public Health and the municipalities, says Minister of Health and Care Services Ingvild Kjerkol.

Preparedness in society

The Government’s contingency plan for the way forward with covid-19 is designed so that society can react quickly if monitoring and risk assessments indicate that the pandemic will lead to a significant disease burden or critical overload of the health service. This plan will be in place by June 2023.

The situation will be handled in a targeted manner, based on the degree of infection, risk and consequences in society. Decisions must be based on overall assessments, also in relation to the economy.

– The management must have a clear focus on public health and society, not a one-sided focus on COVID-19. Good monitoring, up-to-date knowledge and good preparedness are key factors for the success of this approach, says Kjerkol.

Each sector must be prepared to mobilize and implement necessary and proportionate measures as soon as possible. The sectors must assess their own plans and the need for preparedness in relation to the government’s strategy.

Measure packages developed as part of the emergency preparedness

The government has prepared packages with national infection control measures that can be used as an overall framework for outbreaks and new virus variants. Similar packages of measures have been developed for entry into the country.

– To improve the predictability and flexibility in handling the pandemic, the Norwegian government has prepared packages with infection control measures as part of the contingency plan. The package of measures provides the opportunity for planning, dialogue and adjustment of measures, says Kjerkol.

Measures must be assessed concretely and in light of the current situation and updated knowledge before they are implemented. All ministries and their subordinate agencies must update their contingency plans according to the packages of measures, and they must be prepared for outbreaks and new virus variants.

TISK

The TISK strategy (testing-isolation-tracking-quarantine) has been a key element in the Norwegian government’s COVID-19 strategy and management. The TISK measures are part of the contingency plan, and can be implemented quickly if necessary. Currently, the municipalities are asked to maintain preparedness to administer PCR tests to 1% of the population per week. The municipalities have also been asked to prepare plans to increase capacity when relocating personnel. In addition, the municipalities must have plans to establish a contact tracking system within 2 weeks by, among other things, maintaining the necessary infrastructure, such as telephone and IT systems.

«The municipalities will be compensated for necessary additional expenses related to the increased preparedness. The government will later present a new assessment of the level of preparedness and offer compensation in connection with the Revised National Budget, Kjerkol states.

The vaccination rate is high, and many people have had covid-19. This means that the population has a high level of protection against serious illness, and therefore there is less need for measures to limit infection. The specific advice to stay at home for 4 days after testing positive for covid-19 is revoked. From now on, advice on covid-19 will be left to the National Institute of Public Health.

Vaccination

Vaccines are the most important instrument for combating the pandemic, and the covid-19 vaccination program will continue until June 2023. The vaccination strategy will remain dynamic, and will be based on updated knowledge about the disease and the development of the pandemic. Vaccinations must continue to be made available by the municipalities, so that anyone who wants to start or complete vaccination can do so.

The National Institute of Public Health regularly assesses the need for a fourth dose, and the institute can recommend a booster dose for the elderly and risk groups in the winter of 2022–2023. Therefore, the municipalities must have plans so that they can quickly increase vaccination capacity, says Kjerkol.

The Norwegian government has ordered vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna through the agreement with the EU, which also includes vaccines developed for the Omicron variant. It is not clear when the work on these vaccines will be completed or whether they will be better than those used today.

COVID-19 certificate

The COVID-19 certificate is not in use in Norway, but such certificates are still in use in some other countries. We must be prepared for the COVID-19 situation to change and for it to be necessary to reintroduce strict infection control measures that apply nationally and on arrival in Norway. The Government therefore recommends that the temporary rules in the Infection Control Act on covid-19 certificates be extended.

Delegation of authorityy

On 28 March, the Ministry of Health and Care Services revoked the authority it has given the Norwegian Directorate of Health to coordinate efforts in the health sector during the covid-19 pandemic. The power of attorney was granted on 31 January 2020. Developments in the covid-19 pandemic indicate that there is no longer a need for delegation of authority.