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Norway didn’t declare that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than flu

October 1, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Norway has “reclassified” COVID-19 as a “common flu” after finding the disease is no more dangerous than influenza.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. That distortion appears to be a misrepresentation of a health official’s recent interview with a Norwegian newspaper.

THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing an erroneous conclusion that Norway has declared that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu.

“Norway has reclassified Covid-19 as a common flu,” one website claimed in a headline.

The story from “World Today News” went on to assert that the country recently decided that COVID-19 “should be treated like other respiratory diseases, such as the flu or cold, because, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, it is no more dangerous than those mentioned.”

But NIPH said it did not come to that conclusion.

“It is not correct that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has claimed that ‘Covid-19 is no more dangerous than ordinary flu,’” Line Vold, department director at NIPH, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press.

Vold said the distortion appeared to follow a Norwegian newspaper’s recent interview with an agency official, Geir Bukholm.

Bukholm said in the interview that Norway would begin to view COVID-19 as a respiratory disease with seasonal variation. He explained that the country’s vaccination rate meant that those at high risk from COVID-19 were protected and that the disease was now not likely to burden its health care system — though he said the pandemic wasn’t over, citing countries with low vaccination rates.

Norway recently lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

“Our position, as stated in the news article, is that at this point in the pandemic we must start approaching covid-19 as one of several respiratory diseases circulating with seasonal variation,” Vold’s statement said. “This means that the control measures that will be applicable for various respiratory diseases will require the same level of societal preparedness. This does not mean that illness from corona virus and the seasonal flu are similar.”

It continued: “On an individual level, people must receive the correct treatment for the specific disease. We will be continuously following the epidemiology of both covid-19 and other respiratory diseases and will be prepared to react differently [if] circumstances worsen.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.