Norway to lead COVID-19 task force
Taking prominent role in global iniative; cases mount at home
Norway is taking a prominent role in a global initiative to battle coronavirus.
The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator was launched in April by the World Health Organization (WHO), which describes it as “a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.”
Norway is already a partner in the collaboration, having joined in April. The work of the project has so far been led by the European Commission. Along with South Africa, Norway has been selected as a new leader for the collaboration, VG reports.
“It will be demanding, but this is something we must make happen to stop the pandemic,” Minister of International Development Dag Inge Ulstein said to VG in reference to the project’s mission statement.
“Only through international cooperation can the world succeed in defeating the virus. We cannot afford to fail. We must do what we can,” Ulstein said.
According to the WHO’s website, the collaboration requires total investment of $31.3 billion, of which $18.1 billion is earmarked for vaccines, $7.2 billion for therapeutics, and $6 billion for testing.
The group met online on Sept. 10, with various organizations and global regions represented at the summit. Russia, China, and the Unites States also participated in the summit.
Ulstein said that Norway’s team is prepared and expects the task to require good diplomatic skills, expert knowledge, and good relationships with established partners.
In June, the WHO said there was a funding gap of $27.9 billion, of which $13.7 billion was urgently needed.
Norway a “red” country by own criteria
The number of infections in Norway during recent weeks now puts the country above that limit, at just under 21 cases per 100,000 residents, according to national broadcaster NRK.
Local outbreaks in Fredrikstad, Sarpsborg, and Bergen have pushed the national infection rate above acceptable levels.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) said that it did not deem it necessary to divide Norway into “red” and “green” zones for travel, as has been the cases for international arrivals.
“But it is very relevant to work with good local measures, such as face masks and closure of workplaces or institutions, but not travel restrictions,” NIPH department director Frode Forland told NRK.
Higher levels of infection in Norway could theoretically result in other countries introducing restrictions on travel from Norway.
Finland has already announced such restrictions after Norway passed Helsinki’s stricter limit of 10 infections per 100,000 residents.
Chief Medical Officer Bjørn Guldvog told NRK that local measures would be introduced in Bergen, potentially including stricter social distancing requirements, control of quarantine, or maximum assembly limits.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.