Fact Check: Did Norway Reclassify COVID As Flu?

Norway lifted its coronavirus restrictions on September 25, returning the country to normal after around a year and a half of measures designed to curb the pandemic.

The Claim

Claims are circulating online that Norway has reclassified COVID as an ordinary flu.

On September 29, search engine Google registered a huge spike of more than 2,000 percent in people searching for "Norway reclassified COVID." Similar search terms, such as "Norway COVID 19," were also on the increase.

A Google search returns at least one purported news website stating this to be the case, while the claim can also be found on social media.

On September 25, a Twitter user wrote, as part of a list of various COVID news snippets: "Norway reclassified COVID as ordinary flu."

•Norway reclassified Covid as ordinary flu
•Croatia’s President calls out vaccine insanity
•Brazil’s President will not support vax passports/restrictions
•Denmark lifted restrictions
•Sweden lifted restrictions
•Ireland plans to drop Covid restrictions by Oct. 22#Covid

— Melissa 🗣 (@MelissaLMRogers) September 25, 2021

In addition, a Reddit user posted on September 28 that they were handed a 30-day Facebook ban for posting about the reclassification, and shared an image of what looks like a screenshot of a news article with the headline: "Norway reclassifies COVID-19: No more dangerous than ordinary flu."

The Facts

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH/FHI) told Newsweek these claims are not true. It appears that the claims were sparked by comments made by Geir Bukholm, assistant director of the NIPH, in an interview with Norwegian media outlet VG.

In it, VG reported, translated from Norwegian: "We are now in a new phase where we must look at the coronavirus as one of several respiratory diseases with seasonal variation, says assistant director Geir Bukholm in FHI to VG."

Another part of the report read: "The coronavirus thus joins the ranks of other respiratory diseases such as colds and seasonal flu."

Newsweek contacted the NIPH for clarification over exactly what this means.

A representative for the health body said: "It is not correct that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has claimed that 'COVID-19 is no more dangerous than ordinary flu.' This statement is probably a misinterpretation of this interview in [VG].

"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.

"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 coronavirus and the seasonal flu are similar."

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

Norway has not reclassified COVID as ordinary flu. The country's health agency has said this is a misinterpretation.

FACT CHECK BY Ed Browne

COVID test
A person is tested for coronavirus in a car outside an emergency unit in Sandvika, Norway, on March 2, 2020. Last week, Norway lifted its coronavirus restrictions. Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix / AFP / Getty