Despite accounting for only 0.8 percent of the Norwegian population, Somalis constitute over 20 percent of immigrants treated for COVID-19, according to the Norwegian Public Health Institute (FHI). More than 829 immigrants are being treated for coronavirus; over 200 are Somalis
Almost one in four hospitalized immigrants in Norway is Somali, despite the diaspora there constituting only 0.8 percent of the Norwegian population. This has been attributed to cramped living conditions and their insufficient knowledge of the Norwegian language.
While the share of immigrants admitted to Norwegian hospitals with COVID-19 roughly corresponds to their proportion in the general population, there is one group that is strongly over-represented in the statistics.
Despite accounting for only 0.8 percent of the Norwegian population, Somalis constitute over 20 percent of immigrants treated for COVID-19, according to the Norwegian Public Health Institute (FHI). More than 829 immigrants are being treated for coronavirus; over 200 are Somalis, national broadcaster NRK reported.
“We see that there are several groups that may be more exposed, among others, the Somali-born”, FHI said.
Oslo chief epidemiologist Tore Steen noted a “disturbing increase” in the number of infections in the districts of Stovner, Gamle Oslo and Alna, all of which have a strong immigrant presence.
“So we see that there is less infection, at least relatively, among ethnic Norwegians and more infection among immigrants,” Steen told NRK.
He noted a paradigm shift in infection patterns. While in the first weeks, most new cases stemmed from people returning from skiing holidays in Italy and Austria, in recent weeks the virus has been spreading in immigrant-heavy areas.
He says that the first weeks were the most contagious in western districts, a good proportion were people who had been on skiing holidays in Italy and Austria.
“It’s true that among the immigrants, there seems to be extra many infections among Somalis”, Steen admitted.
So far, the reason for this over-representation remains unclear. However, Trude Margrete Arnesen, a specialist in community medicine at the Department of Infection Protection and Vaccine at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI), ventured to news outlet Resett that cramped living conditions and worse access to information among the Somalis could be the cause. Arnesen also referred to Sweden’s example, where a “higher mortality” among this group was recorded.
Earlier, Nasreen Begum, the leader and founder of Local Mothers Norway, expressed concern about immigrant women and housewives who do not take the authorities’ advice on the coronavirus seriously enough, citing low confidence in the Norwegian authorities and poor knowledge of the Norwegian language.
To raise awareness, Local Mothers, an NGO, started an outreach door-to-door information campaign, NRK reported.
FHI head of department Line Vold stressed that more detailed information campaigns are underway.
“We see that there are some groups that may be over-represented. To reach them to an even greater extent, measures are being implemented, including on social media”, Vold told the newspaper Dagbladet.
Largely owing to Norway’s immigration policy and demographics, its Somali diaspora numbers some 40,000 and is estimated to be one of country’s largest, after Poles and Lithuanians.
A total of 4,655 proven COVID-19 cases have been reported in Norway. A total of 32 patients have died; their average age is 84 years.