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HEALTH

VERDICT: How well did Norway handle the Covid-19 pandemic?

Norway’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic was given an overall positive scorecard in an official commission report published on Tuesday.

covid vaccination
An unrelated illustration photo of Covid-19 vaccination. Norway's Corona Commission has released its final report on the country's response to Covid-19. Photo: Claus Bech / Ritzau Scanpix / AFP

The Corona Commission, appointed to scrutinise the response of authorities and health services, on Tuesday published its final report on the country’s management of the pandemic.

The commission concluded that Norway’s response to the pandemic was generally good. The report notes that the Scandinavian country has one of the lowest Covid-19 death rates in Europe and limited the impact of the virus on economic activity.

Several individuals made far greater contributions than could have been expected, it also said.

“In the health service, state administration, municipalities and at several companies, an impressive flexibility and ability to adapt was demonstrated,” the report states.

Some criticism is included in the report. Authorities were not adequately prepared to deal with a pandemic of the magnitude Covid-19 proved to be.

The pandemic caused severe strain on a number of ICU wards at times and doctors’ services in local municipalities were poorly equipped, the report said.

“ICU preparedness at hospitals was not good enough,” the report states.

The commission meanwhile pointed out the vaccination programme as a successful element of the response but said the government should have been quicker to take the step of distributing more vaccines to areas with higher Covid-19 prevalence.

A broad range of areas are covered by the report, including its consequences for children and young people, which were found to be excessive.

Authorities failed to do enough to protect children from some of the effects of restrictions, despite this being a government objective.

“To put it a little simply, we can say that children and young people are worse affected by restrictions than by infections and that there is a difference between what you miss out on over a year when you are 16 compared to when you are 46,” the report states.

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HEALTH

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

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