Norway now has low rate of infection

Authorities abandon plans for broad testing for coronavirus

COVID19

Image: Arttabula

THE LOCAL

Norway’s health agency has abandoned plans to test broadly for coronavirus after determining that the spread of infection in the country is now so low that doing so would be pointless.

Instead, tests will be reserved for those who have symptoms of coronavirus, those who work in health care or elderly-care homes, and those in risk groups. 

In a press release issued on May 25, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimated that if 12,000 random people were tested in Norway today, 15 would test positive, of which only one would have an actual coronavirus infection. 

“In such a situation, health professionals should not rely on a positive result until they have taken a new test to confirm it,” Joakim Øverbø, a doctor at the institute, said. 

The institute made an exception for elderly-care homes, where it has decided staff and patients can be tested whether they exhibit symptoms or not. This is because residents often display fewer typical symptoms, are less able to communicate how they feel, and are at much higher risk from the virus.  

“In such situations, health-care professionals should test everyone associated with the unit at a care home where the infection has been detected. If the test answer is negative and you still suspect COVID-19, you should take a new test,” he said.

In its press release, the agency also explained that test results can remain positive for weeks after a person ceases to be contagious, as the standard polymerase chain reaction test did not distinguish between viral debris and an infectious virus.

In its new test criteria, the institute set out a list of those who should be tested, in order of priority:

1) Patients in need of hospitalization;

2) Patients or residents at an elderly-care home or other health institution;

3) Those employed in the health service in patient-related work;

4) Those in a risk group and their relatives;

5) A person in quarantine due to close contact with a confirmed coronavirus case or after traveling;

6) Employee, child, or pupil in a reopened daycare facility or school;

7) Others with suspected coronavirus.

Those without symptoms should be tested in the following cases: 

1) After an outbreak of infection in an elderly-care home, all employees and residents of the affected units should be tested.

2) When diagnosing infection in health institutions, it may be appropriate to test close contacts who are asymptomatic.

3) When new residents move into nursing homes, testing may be appropriate.

4) Prior to certain hospital stays or procedures (although this is up to each hospital); 

5) In some cases, foreign universities or employers might require testing. This can be done privately.

6) Research: In some research studies, all participants will be tested regardless of their symptoms. 

This article first appeared in The Local.

This article originally appeared in the June 12, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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