The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, are facing their highest number of COVID-19 cases as we move into the winter months. Scandinavian executives are now put to the test to see if they can handle this rise. We overview the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic thus far and analyze the strategies Scandinavian countries will use to combat the spike in cases.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Norway’s government quickly began preparation and treated the virus as a serious matter. Testing for COVID-19 began in Norway on January 23rd and it was listed as a notifiable disease on January 31st (Ursin et al 665). The first recorded incidence of COVID-19 in Norway took place on February 26th, and the first death on March 12th; that same day the Norwegian parliament began presenting policies which intended to limit and delay the COVID-19 outbreak (Ursin et al 666). Early policies included closing borders to incoming travellers who are not Norwegian citizens and advisory against unnecessary travel, group meeting restrictions, and enforced business closures if social distancing was not maintained (Ursin et al 666 and 668).The initial COVID-19 response responsibility was delegated to the Directorate of Health by the Ministry of Health and Care Services, but from March 13th the overall response was led by the Ministry of Justice, and then from May 7th ministries were given responsibility for their sectors (Saunes et al). Considering these changes in responsibility, throughout Norway’s response the Directorate of Health and Norwegian Institute of Public Health continued to support and provide information to the government. Weekly network meetings with governmental and organizational leaders of the COVID-19 response has been an important aspect of communication to help Norway’s executive combat the virus effectively (Saunes et al). Testing, track and trace procedures, ensuring healthcare service capacity for all in need, travel restriction, and economic relief have been priorities throughout Norway’s response.
A recent lift of restrictions has led to a spike in cases, so there has been a recontinuation of procedures which include: negative test requirements on travel, business closure, and group meeting restrictions (Government.no). Overall Norway has had 41,003 cases and 387 deaths, many of which came from the spike that occured in recent months (Google News). Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg stated that harsher lockdown measures will be implemented, but she hopes to be able to loosen these restrictions for Christmas (Government.no). It seems as though re-continuation of procedures has caused a decrease in the spike of cases, but hopefully the looser measures through the holidays will not reverse this trend. Thus far Norway has handled COVID-19 relatively well, but once we get through the winter months we will see how effective these executive decisions are in dealing with their spike in COVID-19.
Finland’s early governmental actions between both the head of state and government allowed for there to be a positive transition when dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Immediately after it was announced that the world was facing a pandemic, Finland decided to place a two-month lockdown beginning in March as well as place a travel ban restricting individuals to go in and out of the capital. Because of this, Finland has been able to maintain low levels of infection rates “…five times below the EU average, with a lesser hit to its economy…” proving that president Sauli Niinisto and prime minister Sanna Marin are, in fact, doing everything in their power to continue to maintain their people safe and protected, but that’s not all (Kingsley). It seems that Finland’s most significant strategies also include maintaining a high medical supply. One of their government’s biggest concerns was the potential to face a lack of supply, which led them to take precautionary measures to ensure that they are set to attack a second wave by planning and rationalizing the drugs they need to keep those who come in contact with COVID-19 safe (NYT). Unfortunately, if we take a look at how they are performing today, we notice that there has been a steady increase in cases. Since October 8th, there has been an increase of 18,860 cases (Statista) but have only witnessed 461 deaths since January 29th, 2020 which was when the first Covid-19 case was recognized in Finland.
Sweden is famously known for being much more lenient towards and not going into lockdown for the coronavirus. The Swedish government ruled that safety precautions were voluntary. With that being said, Sweden was fortunate enough to have a pretty mild summer and fall in respect to confirmed COVID-19 cases. Since then, things are looking downhill for Sweden as they have just recorded their deadliest November since the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918. Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven addressed the nation late November that he fears that his strategy at battling the pandemic so far is not enough to suppress the increasing death toll. Lofven has since established regional limitations that 70% of Swedish citizens are now living under stricter guidelines and health protocols (Reuters Staff 2020). In November, Sweden recorded a 10,177 increase in confirmed cases over a five day period. From the beginning of the pandemic to the present there have been a recorded 7,514 total deaths in Sweden as per the COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Since the beginning of December there have been 188,007 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sweden. These past two weeks have made up for almost 60% of the state’s entire confirmed cases (~58.7%).
Chelsea Rosario, a Sociology major and a 2021 graduate from SUNY Geneseo, focused her studies on Finland.
Nevaeh Tucker is a Political Science major at SUNY Geneseo expected to graduate in 2024, and she focused her studies on Norway.
Bailey Gyllenhammer is an International Relations major of the graduating class of 2024. His studies were abstracted around Sweden’s political culture.
Saunes et al. 2020. “COVID-19 Health System Response Monitor.” Last updated November 19, 2020. https://www.covid19healthsystem.org/countries/norway/livinghit.aspx?Section=5.1%20Governance&Type=Section
Ursin et al. 2020. “The COVID-19 pandemic in Norway: The dominance of social implications in framing the policy response.” Health Policy and Technology, vol. 9, no. 4, p. 663-672. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hlpt.2020.08.004
Government.no. 2020. “Timeline: News from Norwegian Ministries about the Coronavirus disease Covid-19.” Accessed on December 14, 2020. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/koronavirus-covid-19/timeline-for-news-from-norwegian-ministries-about-the-coronavirus-disease-covid-19/id2692402/
Google News. 2020. “Coronavirus (COVID-19).” Last updated December 14, 2020. https://news.google.com/covid19/map?hl=en-US&mid=%2Fm%2F05b4w&gl=US&ceid=US%3Aen
Kingsley, Sam. “Finland: Europe’s quiet success in Covid-19 fight.” Yahoo. November 3, 2020. https://news.yahoo.com/finland-europes-quiet-success-covid-025356247.html?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly9kdWNrZHVja2dvLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAD_vvDrHZ_iLkpa0NduAxgH4PI2CbkuVHWV0pYj-YvcpPyn2eOK-y059akbaY2yilialMg5bRbaKwbHEz5KPAUB0a4mOfg13YB77i4FZHKEGJpMMYajWXowoszQnxINvgoWcoUCu_ztXlVVX_IoDcT-2zMIJyAczvOZaxSNFCZ6T
Niinimäki, E. “Cumulative number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Finland since January 2020.” Statista. Last updated December 13, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102255/cumulative-coronavirus-cases-in-finland/
Anderson, Christina, Pryser Libell, Henrik. 2020. “Finland, ‘Prepper Nation of the Nordics,’ Isn’t Worried About Masks.” New York Times. April 5, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/05/world/europe/coronavirus-finland-masks.html
“COVID-19 Dashboard by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (J.” ArcGIS Dashboards, 2020. https://www.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html.
“Swedish PM Warns Pandemic Respite over as Deaths Start Rising.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, November 3, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-lofven/swedish-pm-warns-pandemic-respite-over-as-deaths-start-rising-idUSKBN27J1SZ.
“Sweden.” Worldometer. Accessed December 22, 2020. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/.