Norway did not ‘reclassify’ COVID-19 as flu-like
The claim: Norway has reclassified the coronavirus as “no more dangerous than regular flu”
As the United States nears 700,000 deaths from COVID-19, older, high-risk Americans are receiving booster shots to ward off the highly contagious delta variant.
But across the Atlantic Ocean, according to some social media users, the coronavirus is no more deadly than a regular flu infection.
“Norway reclassifies Covid-19: no more dangerous than ordinary flu,” read a screenshot shared on Facebook on September 27.
The publication racked up more than 200,000 shares in three days. Similar allegations have generated thousands of interactions on Facebook and Instagram, according to CrowdTangle, a social media analytics tool.
The source of the headline is a September 23 article from a website called Free West Media, which describes itself as a news source “from a Western point of view.”
“Covid-19 is being treated in the mass media as a very dangerous disease,” the article read. “But in Norway it has now been decided to treat it like other respiratory illnesses, like the flu or the common cold virus, because according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, it is no longer dangerous than these. . “
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This assertion is misleading.
Norway has lifted its restrictions on coronaviruses amid widespread vaccination and a decrease in new daily cases. However, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has not reclassified the coronavirus as “no more dangerous than regular flu,” as other fact-checkers and media have pointed out. This claim distorts the comments of a public health official reported by a Norwegian tabloid.
USA TODAY has contacted Free West Media and the Facebook user who shared the request for comment.
Claim distorts comments by Norwegian public health official
Norway’s main public health agency has not compared the danger of COVID-19 to that of the flu.
“It is not correct that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health claimed that ‘Covid-19 is no more dangerous than regular flu” “said Line Vold, department director at the Norwegian Institute of Health public, in an e-mailed statement to USA TODAY. .
On September 25, Norway lifted its coronavirus restrictions as new daily coronavirus infections fell by more than 50% in two weeks. More than 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Vold said the claim in the Instagram post “is probably a misinterpretation” of an interview with Verdens Gang, a Norwegian tabloid newspaper.
The title of the September 20 article, translated into English using Google Translate, says “we can now compare the coronavirus with the flu.” The newspaper quotes comments attributed to Geir Bukholm, deputy director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
“We are now in a new phase where we have to consider the coronavirus as one of the many respiratory diseases with seasonal variations, explains deputy director Geir Bukholm,” the translated article read.
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This does not mean that “coronavirus disease and seasonal flu are similar,” Vold said in the statement sent to USA TODAY.
“Our position, as stated in the press article, is that at this point in the pandemic we must start to see COVID-19 as one of the many respiratory diseases circulating with seasonal variations,” he said. she declared. “This means that the control measures that will be applicable for various respiratory diseases will require the same level of societal preparation.”
USA TODAY debunked several claims that compare the severity of COVID-19 to that of the flu.
“Doctors and scientists are working to estimate the death rate from COVID-19,” Johns Hopkins Medicine said on its website. “Right now it is thought to be considerably higher – perhaps 10 times or more – than that of most strains of influenza.”
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Although there are some similarities between viruses, COVID-19 “seems to spread more easily than the flu” and can be contagious for a longer time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also “cause more serious illness in some people.”
“Serious COVID-19 illness resulting in hospitalization and death can occur even in healthy people,” the CDC says on its website.
Our rating: Partly false
Based on our research, we evaluate the claim that Norway has reclassified the coronavirus as “no more dangerous than regular flu” PARTLY FALSE. Norway has indeed changed the way it approaches COVID-19, and a public health official said that means the disease will be treated the same as other seasonal respiratory illnesses. But the health agency did not say the danger was the same as the flu. Johns Hopkins estimates COVID-19 could be up to ten times more deadly.
Our sources of fact-checking:
- USA TODAY, accessed September 30, US COVID-19 map: tracking cases and deaths
- The New York Times, September 25, Norway lifts coronavirus restrictions after 561 days.
- CrowdTangle, accessed September 30
- Norwegian Institute of Public Health, September 30, statement sent by email by Geir Bukholm
- Reuters, accessed September 30, COVID-19 Tracker: Norway
- USA TODAY, December 17, Fact Check: COVID-19 Much Worse Than 1976 Flu Outbreaks, As meme claims
- USA TODAY, December 31 Fact check: Post claims COVID-19 is another strain of flu, wrongly attributed to Professor Cornell
- USA TODAY, October 6, Fact Check: Satirical article falsely claims COVID-19 is no worse than the flu and affects virtually no one
- Google Translate, accessed September 30
- Verdens Gang, September 20, FHI: we can now compare the coronavirus to the flu
- Snopes, September 30, has Norway reclassified COVID-19 as influenza?
- Newsweek, September 29, Fact Check: Has Norway reclassified COVID as influenza?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed September 30, Similarities and Differences Between Influenza and COVID-19
- USA TODAY, August 20, 2020, Fact Check: COVID-19 Kills More Than 1918 Spanish Flu and Seasonal Flu
- Johns Hopkins Medicine, September 28, COVID-19 Influenza
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