Nordic co-operation on COVID-19

20.04.20 | News
Elyxandro Cegarra Ritzau Scanpix
The Nordic countries are working together on various levels here and now to deal with the corona crisis. In the long term, we need to learn from the differences in each other’s strategic approaches and look at new digital solutions.

The health ministers have held two video conferences under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers during the corona crisis, informing each other about developments and sharing knowledge of official initiatives to deal with the problem. 

“It is important that we keep each other updated at all times on how the different Nordic countries are dealing with the enormous challenges we all face due to COVID-19. There is undoubtedly much to learn from the pandemic, both in the Nordic region and in the rest of the world, and we must stand together to ensure that we emerge from this global crisis as well as possible,” Magnus Heunicke, the Danish Minister for Health and Elderly Affairs said after the most recent video conference. 

Different approaches to COVID-19

It is no secret that the Nordic countries have adopted different approaches to the corona crisis. Several experts have pointed out that although the Nordic welfare systems are similar, there are differences in population size, geography and demographics as well as the stage of the pandemic in the various countries. That is one part of the explanation. Another is the differences in government strategy. For example, just before Easter, as the Finnish authorities were introducing new lockdown measures, the Danish prime minister was telling the nation of her first thoughts about the country (perhaps) gradually reopening after Easter. What Finland and Denmark – as well as Norway – have in common is that they have been more restrictive in their approach than Sweden, according to several health experts.  

We must learn from this situation 

NordForsk, a research institution under the Nordic Council of Ministers, is launching three new research initiatives, each of which will shed light on the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of the initiatives will be based on clinical research and focus on issues such as vaccines and methods of treatment, the third will focus on societal security and the Nordic governments’ approaches to contingency planning and crisis management. NordForsk Director Arne Flåøyen explains: 

“Each country has its own strategy and its own solutions to COVID-19. From a researcher’s point of view, what we are now seeing is a bit like a major experiment in how to try to resolve the same crisis in different ways. Research collaboration let’s us learn from each other and better prepare our societies to deal with future pandemics,” the director adds.

Digital solutions in the future   

In 2017, the Swedish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers launched the project Health at a Distance, which involved mapping e-medicine initiatives in a report by the Nordic Welfare Centre. Centre Director Eva Franzen and the area manager for community health care in South Lappland, Peter Berggren, explained to Dagens Samhälle

“Technology brings health initiatives into people’s homes and makes social care possible from a distance. Another key point is that the technology very much already exists, which facilitates further investments in e-health – including for use in any future pandemics.” The report will be launched at a conference in Copenhagen in late 2020.