Norwegian equality and discrimination ombudsman Hanne Bjurstrøm has raised inequality concerns about her country's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Out of the 29 proposed anti-corona measures aimed specifically at immigrants, merely two have actually been implemented, which, according to Bjurstrøm, can be interpreted as discrimination, the newspaper Klassekampen reported.
The measures were introduced by an expert committee on 4 December 2020. However, only two of them have since been implemented: information campaigns on COVID testing in several languages and increased visibility of testing stations at larger airports.
Measures that haven't even started yet include an app to establish a direct communications channel to the immigrant population. A campaign to prevent negative attitudes towards certain immigrant groups is another one.
The implementation of a multilingual "COVID line" has only started. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the service will be available in three weeks at best. "We proposed a multilingual guidance telephone line as early as April. It is incomprehensible why it is still not in place, as I understand that the health authorities consider it a good measure", Bjurstrøm complained.
According to Bjurstrøm, overall efforts to quickly communicate critical information to all parts of the population have not been successful.
"After almost a year has passed since the pandemic hit Norway, access to information is still not in place", Bjurstrøm told Klassekampen. "There is inequality in practice, and it can be seen as discrimination against groups that can't use what is intended for the general public", she warned.
The set of measures introduced on 4 December includes four categories: infection control and prevention, measures for increased testing and better infection detection, measures for increased implementation of quarantine and isolation and, lastly, other priority information measures.
Previously, immigrant communities, including Somalis, were identified as having a higher infection rate compared with the general population. At one point, Somalis who constitute 0.8 percent of the Norwegian population, constituted over 20 percent of immigrants treated for COVID-19.
Overall, Norway has seen over 58,000 cases of COVID-19, with over 500 deaths.