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Definitions of COVID-19 cases and close contacts

Published Updated

Here are the definitions of suspected, probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19, and definition of close contacts.

Here are the definitions of suspected, probable and confirmed cases of COVID-19, and definition of close contacts.

Suspected COVID-19

A person who meets the clinical criteria: acute respiratory tract infection and one or more of the following symptoms; fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell/taste, or who is considered by a doctor to have suspected COVID-19.

Probable COVID-19

A person who develops symptom consistent with "suspected COVID-19" (see above) or have had an apparantly positive test result (not PCR) before the final test result using PCR is available.   

A probable case should be isolated in the same way as a confirmed case. Household members should be in quarantine until a test result becomes available.

Confirmed COVID-19

A person with COVID-19 confirmed by RT-PCR test.

Close contacts 

You are considered to be a "close contact" if 

  • you have been in contact with a person with confirmed COVID-19 disease less than 48 hours before they developed their first symptoms onset (for people without symptoms: see chapter about Smittesporing) AND 
  • the contact has been
    • less than two metres away for more than 15 minutes OR
    • in direct physical contact OR
    • in direct contact with secretions.

This does not apply when recommended personal protective equipment is used in the healthcare service.

Anyone who can document that they have had COVID-19 disease using an approved method during the last six months, are exempt from quarantine duty.

The most exposed close contacts are "household members and equivalent close contacts". This usually means those who:

  • Live in the same household.
  • Have had similar close physical contact as in a household (for example, boyfriend/girlfriend, colleagues who sit near each other in an open plan office).
  • Have cared for a person with confirmed COVID-19 disease or had similar close physical contact, without having used recommended protective equipment.


11.11.2020: Updated definition of probable case

30.10.2020: The paragraph "probable COVID-19" is updated according to new definitions in the regulations

28.10.2020: Time indications for the contagious period for asymptomatic people , as well as assessments of what increases infectivity, have been moved to the chapter on contact tracing.

21.10.2020: The Chapter "Close contacts": Updated the sentence "Before the test" to "From the time of the test"

25.09.2020: updated definition of close contacts

27.08.2020: Changes to these sentences under "Probable COVID-19"

The category is used when it is not possible to carry out testing, or if the test result is delayed and the probability of infection is high. A probable case should be handled in the same way as a confirmed case. Household members and equivalent close contacts should be in quarantine, but it is not necessary for contact tracing of other close contacts

15.08.2020: From 13.08.2020, all close contacts shall be in quarantine, and there is no longer a distinction between the types of close contact.

13.08.2020 Added sentence that all close contacts shall be in quarantine, but that in some circumstances it can be useful to differentiate between "household members and equivalent close contacts" and other "close contacts". 

Minor change, added "examples include"

Added loss of sense of taste/smell as a symptom. Added examples of "household members or equivalent close contact." Some general text changes.

Definition of close contact changed from contact 24 hours before symptom debut until contact 48 hours before symptom debut.

Added 15 minutes continuously, as per Norwegian version.

General updates as per Norwegian version - added "probable" as a category


New article replaces the old version

Updated according to Norwegian text changes

Added "Low risk contact" to suspected cases. Updated definition of close contacts to mirror Norwegian text


Added two points in list under "definition of suspected case". Added changes to confirmed case definition.


Some definitions are updated according to changes in the Norwegian text


Updated according to Norwegian text changes (close contacts, direct contact)


Updated according to Norwegian text changes. Changed SARS-CoV-2 to COVID-19. "Other contacts" changed to "low risk contacts". Changed definition of close contact and added about closed spaces (e.g. classroom, meeting room, waiting room) with a confirmed cases, changed definition of physical contact to <2 metres for more than 15 minutes, changed from 2 seats rows on plane to in all directions, added people in same travel group as close contacts. Under low risk contacts added use of same transport medium.  

28.02.20 Updated according to Norwegian text - definition of a possible case

18.02.20: changed virus name to SARS-CoV2

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SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that is causing the outbreak of COVID-19 disease.

The virus is related to another coronavirus that caused the SARS outbreak in 2002/2003 but is not the same virus.