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Facts about the COVID-19 outbreak

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Here are facts about the COVID-19 outbreak that began in Norway in 2020.

Here are facts about the COVID-19 outbreak that began in Norway in 2020.


Outbreak began in China

The outbreak beagn in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province in China in December 2019, and was linked to a food market in the town. The virus was identified by Chinese health authorities on 7th January 2020.

The new virus was given the name SARS-CoV-2 and is a coronavirus that can cause respiratory infection in humans. The disease was given the name COVID-19.

The majority of reported COVID-19 disease cases appear to be mild but severe cases have been reported, with some fatalities. The disease transmits between humans and has spread from China to many parts of the world, including Europe and Norway.

WHO declared a pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020. The declaration was intended to strengthen the co-ordination of efforts to prevent further spread of the disease. 

WHO declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on 12th March 2020.

For updated information about the outbreak, see:

What is the Norwegian Institute of Public Health's role?

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is closely monitoring the situation nationally and internationally, disseminating this information and advising the national authorities, the health service and other stakeholders on which infection control measures should be implemented in different situations.

We receive daily updates through various international networks. To give the best possible picture of the epidemic's progress and severity in Norway, information is collected from several surveillance systems. This information forms an important basis for risk assessments and infection control strategy. Some of the surveillance systems are already established, others are being underway.

Information is collected from the following systems: 

  • Register of outbreaks (Utbruddsregister), database: continuous overview of alerts of confirmed  cases and deaths in Norway.
  • Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases (MSIS): overview of notified confirmed cases
  • Norwegian Syndromic Surveillance System (Sykdomspulsen): measures how many contact their doctor /emergency out-of-hours clinic with respiratory tract symptoms and suspected COVID-19 (KUHR data).
  • Self-reported disease: measures respiratory tract symptoms in the population, based on self-reporting by people who suspect that they have COVID-19.
  • Test results: information about tests and test results from laboratories throughout Norway.
  • Norwegian Intensive Care Register: continuous overview of intensive care admissions.
  • Norwegian Directorate of Health: number of hospital admissions per day (counted manually).

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is supporting the municipal health services with following up cases and contact tracing. 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health provides updated advice to healthcare personnel and the public via the website. Information and advice will be adjusted and updated according to the outbreak's development and knowledge of tthe disease.

The laboratory at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has analysis for rapid detection of the virus and has the reference function for diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2.

Risk assessment

There is great uncertainty about how the epidemic will develop in Norway. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health publishes reports and risk assessments for the COVID-19 epidemic. 

The report contains a situational analysis, risk assessment and scenarios to support the healthcare service in planning. The scenarios build upon a range of assumptions that are uncertain, such as time from infection to symptoms, how many days someone is contagious, how many people an infected person can infect and how many will become sick.  

It builds upon the national emergency preparedness plan for outbreaks of severe infectious diseases. The risk assessment is updated as new knowledge arises. 

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