Health chief declares Norway has beaten Covid-19 pandemic

Hospital admissions in the Scandinavian country at lowest level in a year

Crown Prince Haakon of Norway (C-R) and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway (C-L) kayak in the Oslo Fjord along with young people from Oslo Kayak Club invited by Norsk Friluftsliv, on June 1, 2021 in Fornebu near Oslo. / AFP / NTB / POOL / Stian Lysberg SOLUM
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The Covid-19 crisis is over in Norway, one of the country's top doctors has declared.

Preben Aavitsland, chief physician in the infection control division at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, posted a graph on Twitter showing hospitals were experiencing their lowest level of admissions in a year.

“That is the pandemic over with,” he wrote.

He later told newspaper VG the country could begin preparing for a return to normality.

“Here in Norway, the pandemic is, so to say, over,” he said.

“We can start to prepare ourselves for corona taking very little space in our everyday lives.”

But he warned that Norway needed to prepare for the possibility of Covid-19 surges.

“A fire chief would have said 'the forest fire is out, and the danger for people and buildings is over, but there remains a little clearing up here and there, and we need to be vigilant',” he told state broadcaster NRK.

Norway has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, with case numbers lower than the majority of countries on the continent.

Its infection rate is significantly lower than its neighbour Sweden's, which never enforced a lockdown, but is comparable to its other Scandinavian neighbour Finland.

Only Finland and Iceland have had a lower infection rate, according to Our World In Data.

Norway responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by using a mix of strategies, including lockdowns, social distancing, the closure of national borders and quarantine laws. The first lockdown was announced on March 12 - nearly two weeks before the UK’s first shutdown.

In April, severe restrictions were imposed in the capital Oslo to contain further waves of the virus, but these have now been lifted.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg credited high levels of trust in the government with helping the Covid response.

"What we have done right is that, first of all, we moved tough and hard at the start," she told the Financial Times last month.

About 32 per cent of Norway’s 5.3 million people have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Espen Nakstad, deputy director-general of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, said the pandemic would not be “completely over” until all adults have received their second dose.

“Then hopefully we can live very normally again, even if the pandemic is of course not completely over in Norway until it’s over in all countries,” he said.