Testing, symptoms and close contacts

Person sneezing

Illustration: Helsedirektoratet/Eline Korsnes Sundal

Symptoms of a coronavirus infection

Symptoms of the coronavirus can be a fever, coughing, breathing difficulties, headache, lethargy, reduced sense of smell and taste, and muscle pain. A sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and sneezing may also be symptoms in some cases.

If you are unsure whether you have symptoms of a coronavirus infection, you should get tested.

COVID-19, a cold, influenza or allergy?

Both COVID-19 and the flu (influenza) are respiratory tract infections caused by a virus. The symptoms caused by the coronavirus resemble those seen with the flu and can be difficult to distinguish between. Hence, the rule of thumb now is to go for a test once you experience symptoms of a respiratory infection.

You should also undergo testing if you develop symptoms of a common cold.

The symptoms of an allergy can in some cases resemble those of a coronavirus infection, such as a runny nose, sneezing, runny or itchy eyes and some who also experience asthmatic distress. However, pollen allergy does not bring about symptoms such as a sore throat, body aches or fever as can be seen with coronavirus.

Read more about pollen allergy and symptoms (in Norwegian)

NIPH (FHI) has prepared a helpful table to help you distinguish the symptoms of COVID-19 from other respiratory tract infections and allergy.

What should I do if I develop symptoms?

  • If you feel unwell, you should stay at home.
  • Anyone who shows symptoms of what could be a coronavirus infection should get tested.
  • If you are ill and in need of medical attention or individual health counselling, contact your doctor electronically or by telephone.
  • If you need urgent health assistance and cannot reach your doctor, you can call the emergency out-of-hours clinic (116 117).
  • In case of life-threatening illness or injury, call 113.

Testing

Where can I undergo testing?

The municipalities are responsible for testing. Testing is organized differently in different municipalities, and hence you will need to refer to the website of your local municipality for information on how testing is organised in your area.

Find the website of your local municipality here.

Who should or must be tested for the coronavirus?

When should you undergo testing?

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH / FHI) recommends that anyone who suspects they might be infected by the coronavirus is given the opportunity to be tested. Those that should get tested are:

  • Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19, including anyone experiencing a sudden onset of symptoms of a respiratory tract infection.
  • Anyone who is a close contact to someone with confirmed COVID-19. Testing should be done both at the start of the quarantine period and after a minimum of seven days after the last point of contact*.
  • Anyone who is alerted via the Smittestopp-app.
  • Other persons as assessed by a doctor.
  • Anyone who suspects they might be infected by the coronavirus.

*Children should also be tested, in consultation with parents and guardians. A child with a runny nose as the only symptom and who is otherwise in a good condition with no other signs of onset of a respiratory tract infection does not need to stay at home or undergo testing.

In connection with larger outbreaks where contact tracing is challenging, testing is recommended also for other contacts in addition to those defined as close contacts. This may as an example apply to colleagues at work or other pupils/students at the same grade in addition to those defined as close contacts. This type of testing can be useful for rapid identification of other persons with a coronavirus infection and to piece together the overall picture when it comes to spread an scale of the outbreak.

At limited capacity, groups should be tested by order of priority based on criteria set by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, criteria that are assessed and updated continuously.

When must you undergo testing?

Testing for the coronavirus is in some situations regulated by law. The following must therefore be tested:

  • Anyone who is in transmission quarantine and develop symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Anyone arriving in Norway after having visited a red country/area during the preceding 10-day period.
  • Anyone who is in travel quarantine and develop symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Anyone who has been to Great Britain, South Africa, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal or Braxil during the preceding 10-day period prior to arriving in Norway.

Testing of children

Children with only mild symptoms of a respiratory tract infection can stay at home to assess the symptoms for a couple of days prior to potential testing. The child should be tested for the coronavirus if a fever and coughing is observed. If the condition of the child improves, the child can return to kindergarten/school without being tested.

A child with a runny nose as the only symptom who is otherwise in a good condition does not need to stay at home nor be tested. Refer to the flowchart developed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to see when a child should stay at home.

Testing of health personnel

Healthcare professionals who have been to yellow countries/areas outside of Norway during the preceding 10 days period, and who work in patient care, should provide one negative test for the coronavirus prior to returning to work. Testing can be considered at a local level for healthcare employees who do not have direct patient contact.

Health personnel who commute between Norway and Sweden or Finland are exempt from travel quarantine, provided they are tested for the coronavirus every 7 days as a minimum. Read more about the test regime.

Testing can shorten the quarantine duty period

You can reduce the length of the travel quarantine if you test negative for the coronavirus on a test taken no sooner than seven days after arrival or having been in contact with a person with a confirmed coronavirus infection.

The test must be a PCR-based test and you need to stay in quarantine until the test result comes back negative.

Regular testing and mass testing

In areas with high infection pressure, regular testing of defined groups, regardless of symptoms and known infection exposure, may be relevant. Examples are schools, workplaces, universities / colleges.

It is also possible to mass test large sections of the population in a short and defined period of time. Examples are mass testing in an entire region, district or neighborhood as a single event.

While waiting for your test result

As a rule of thumb, you need stay in quarantine until your test result comes back negative (no coronavirus detected).

Your close contacts do not need to be in quarantine while you are waiting for your test results, but they should pay close attention to any symptoms developing.

If you undergo testing while in quarantine and you have developed symptoms, you should be in isolation until your test results come back.

If you undergo testing without suspected COVID-19 (meaning you have no symptoms, have not been a close contact to someone who is infected, nor have you been in a red country/area), you do not need to stay at home while waiting for the test result. This may for example apply to those who are required to provide a negative test before entering another country or visit an institution. The cost of this type of testing is not covered by the health services.

Test results

Your coronavirus test results will be made available to you at helsenorge.no as soon as your sample is analysed and reported (typically one to two days after your sample was taken). 

If you are unable to log on to helsenorge.no you will only be contacted if your test comes back positive. Some laboratories may provide alternative solutions other than helsenorge.no for presenting your test result, in which case you will be informed about the routines.

If your test result comes back negative (no coronavirus detected) you can go back to work/school provided your general condition is good (you feel well with no fever). This applies even if some symptoms of a respiratory infection still linger.

You need to complete your quarantine duty period even if your test comes back negative. This requirement is based on present knowledge of the incubation period for the virus (from time of infection to onset of symptoms).

If your test result comes back positive, you will be contacted by the local municipality and placed in isolation. The municipality will initiate contact tracing, and you will be asked to provide information on your close contacts during the preceding 48-hours period. The municipality will get in touch with your close contacts to inform them of their quarantine duty.

Rapid tests

The rapid test is a helpful tool to limit the transmission of the coronavirus. The sample is taken via a cotton swab test of the nose.

Results of the rapid tests

The result of a rapid test is registered in the same way as for the standard PCR-based laboratory test.

The rapid test can deliver a test result within 20 minutes. EThe local municipality will decide whether you will recieve your test result at the test station directly or whether you should go home and then be contacted with the test result. You may also have to wait for the test result to be published at Helsenorge.no.

If your test result comes back positive, you will quickly be contacted by the contact tracing team in your local municipality and placed in isolation.

The information hotline does not have access to your test results.

Close contacts and contact tracing

Probable COVID-19

A «probable COVID-19» refers to a person who is a close contact of someone with confirmed COVID-19 who also meets the criteria for a suspected COVID-19 (see below). If you are defined as «probable COVID-19» you need to go into isolation while awaiting your test result in the same way as for a confirmed infection. Those living in your household should be in quarantine while waiting for the test result.

Suspected COVID-19

A «suspected COVID-19» refers to a person who meets the following criteria: acute respiratory tract infection with one or several of the following symptoms; fever, cough, breathing difficulties, reduced sense of smell and taste, or as assessed by a doctor as a suspected COVID-19.

Close contacts

If you are a close contact to a person with a confirmed coronavirus infection you must be in quarantine and should undergo testing. If you are a close contact, you will be contacted in connection with contact tracing and informed as to what applies to you.

You are considered a close contact if you during the 48 hours preceding the onset of symptoms for a person with a confirmed coronavirus infection have:

  • been closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes,
    or
  • in direct physical contact,
    or
  • in direct contact with secretes (such as saliva, snot or tears)

If the person with a confirmed coronavirus infection does not develop any symptoms the above also applies if less than 48 hours have passed prior to the positive test was taken.

If you develop symptoms while in quarantine

If you are in quarantine and develop symptoms, you should act as if you are a probable COVID-19. You must undergo testing and enter isolation while awaiting your test results.

Contact tracing

Contact tracing is an extensive task for the municipality. To limit and keep good track of who your close contacts are is therefore advisable.

If you are about to attend a social gathering or an event it is important that you stay up-to-date on the advice and rules that apply.

Course of the disease

The course of the disease can vary widely between individuals. Currently, the typical courses appear to be:

  • Mild course: The symptoms pass within one to two weeks and there is rarely a need for treatment in the healthcare services.
  • Moderate course: After four to seven days with only mild symptoms, some people may experience breathing difficulties, worsening cough and a rising fever. If you experience breathing difficulties, you should contact your doctor. Some will need to be admitted to hospital.
  • Severe course: Similar to what is seen with the moderate course, but with a need for intensive care treatment. The patients may have symptoms for three to six weeks. Deaths do occur for some of those who turn seriously ill.

Information and knowledge about risk factors for a severe progression of COVID-19 is constantly growing. Admission to hospital, intensive care treatment and deaths are more common among the elderly and people with underlying diseases. The risk is increased with age and underlying diseases in particular. Younger persons without any known risk factors, can also experience a severe illness, but the risk is higher with underlying disease.