Covid in Norway: Citing Budgetary Shortfalls, Authorities Cease Publishing Mortality Data
Notes on Public Health Officialdom Ceasing to Count and Report Data Accurately
And now this happened—it’s kind of ‘old news’ to locals, but since I’m a bit behind on posting, here goes. First, though, hat-tip to reader Jan J who posted this in a comment below a recent piece:
Maybe not the right place to comment, but as a Norwegian, I love reading your take, esp. on Norwegian data as there is precious little critical review to come across. What do you think about this? FHI is pausing the NorMomo work and withdrawing it from Euromomo for ‘budget’ reasons. Quite remarkable timing giving that this year will have record (unexplained) mortality…
So, dear Jan J, since you’re kind enough to read and ask these questions (which concern, in my opinion, quite important issues), here goes:
Budget Cuts Heralding the Coming of ‘Peace’
On the face of it, the pertinent news item over at the website of the Institute of Public Health (IPH, but in Norwegian that would be Folkehelseinstituttet, hence FHI) is very short:
The system for weekly monitoring of total mortality in Norway (NorMOMO) will be put on hold from and including 15 November 2022. This is due to the need for methodological improvements to the system. Unfortunately, the Institute of Public Health’s demanding budget situation does not allow room for this to be carried out now.
NorMOMO has contributed weekly calculations of total mortality in Norway since 2015, and it has supplied data to the European monitoring system for total mortality, EuroMOMO. All deliveries from NorMOMO are now paused. This also includes NorMOMO's weekly report, which until now has been published on Tuesdays as well as mention of the results in Weekly reports on Covid-19, influenza, and other respiratory infections. IPH will continue to analyse mortality in Norway using other methods, and is now working on looking at different ways to strengthen the analysis work.
There’s a couple of hyperlinks to places where one can find such information now, but we’ll get to them in a moment.
The first item to note is the date, 15 Nov. 2022 (which is also, incidentally, the same date the IPH’s outlays for the public sharing of Covid data over at github were halted; IPH cited the same reasons). Please see the summary, including links to other pieces and, above all, persons (h/t Joel Smalley) here.
As I wrote in response to Jan J’s above comment, ‘they pulled the same (crap) with the Covid-19 data (which Joel Smalley analysed), stating that they need to stop publishing it citing budget cuts. Now it’s the same with the Euromomo data.’
What I had not fully considered last week, i.e., that this came about on the very same day as the other data collection stoppage. Hence, I stay with my additional consideration:
Ian Fleming, the creator of ‘James Bond’, had one of his protagonists quip: ‘once is happenstance, twice coincidence, thrice--enemy in action’.
We'll soon see how coincidental this move is, eh?
So, what can we do to understand these moves a bit better?
For the below part, please allow me to elucidate, with reference to specific personal experiences, which come from having researched European administrative history on a granular level for about a decade (plus a year of working with the Austrian Foreign Ministry and, more generally, in academia since then).
First up, Occam’s Razor Rules
If a government entity or politician tells you something, it’s typically quite a good idea to take him or her at their word (by which isn’t meant believing the reasons cited).
The budget cuts are certainly real, they reflect the first publicly unavoidable signs of the impending economic downturn, and they will, in all likelihood, not be the last ones. The government has already announced quite drastic cuts elsewhere (here’s looking at you, Science Department), but so far, this is ‘normal’ as well as expectable to a certain degree.
Now for the interpretation of this: well, I’d go for something like—isn’t this convenient? In February 2022, the Norwegian government has declared the ‘pandemic’ to be over in Norway, hence the revocation of the mandates and the ‘normal everyday life’ since.
Public health officialdom is perhaps the most visibly bloated government agency, which happened because of Sars-Cov-2. If we’re going ‘back to normal’, this shouldn’t be the case.
Now, the IPH (which isn’t singular in this context) has certainly seen its staff and purview grow tremendously during the past three years; imagine if you’re running a company or a small business—imagine growth in all fields (media profile, importance, etc.) but a continued reliance of outside funding. Once the punch bowl is no longer getting refilled, you’re in need to stop binging.
This is where we are now.
Second, what’s the impact?
I recall reading somewhere (at NRK, I believe, but I cannot find the link right now), that the IPH will shed between a quarter and a third of its employees. That is, with respect to its ‘pandemic’ peak. Here’s another piece that underwrites my statement:
There will thus be an end to updated, daily figures on Covid-19, influenza, other respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, vaccination data for Covid-19 and influenza and mortality, writes IPH on its website.
‘IPH has worked intensively in recent weeks to find alternative solutions to Sykdompulsen, but unfortunately still sees itself forced to shut down the solutions that are in use, among other things, by many municipalities. The reason is that the licenses to IPH for handling the pandemic have been removed, writes the institute.’
Here’s my reading of this: how convenient, despite the massive budget cuts.
Fear not, political appointees, such as the IPH’s Director, Dr. Camilla Stoltenberg, will keep their jobs and salaries. By the way, she was selected and appointed while her brother (what a coincidence) was prime minister (Jens Stoltenberg is currently the chief clown pretending to speak on behalf of NATO, and he’ll soon be the new director of the Norwegian Central Bank, courtesy of a selection procedure decided by his political and private friend, the current Labour PM Store).
It’s the other people whose jobs will be cut first.
Yet, it’s also a very telling coincidence, for as a ‘rule’, here’s how you go about ‘hiding’ inconvenient stuff: you don’t.
If that sounds…odd, at first, hear me out: you dump information as much as you care, for this has two distinct advantages:
If a journalist actually does his or her job and asks a specific question about, say, the sharing and collecting of excess mortality, you get to weasel your way out by pointing to ‘the bigger picture’ or something else equally vacuous.
If a journalist asks about ‘the bigger picture’, you can state something else equally vacuous.
Either way, you get your way.
I do maintain the Ian Fleming-deriving aloofness about this, but I’d add that it comes in two mutually exclusive varieties:
On the one hand, if anyone wishes to ‘move beyond Covid’, this would mean to dismantle, to a large extent, the ballooning infrastructure, human and otherwise, that was put in place to ‘do something’ about the pandemic. Cutting spending on these bloated institutions, such as the IPH, is part and parcel of this draw-down.
On the other hand, ‘Covid’ is a multi-billion (pick your currency) industry, which entails a lot of pushback from everyone who stands to benefit from this largesse, incl. specifically big healthcare, big pharma, big government, legacy media, etc.
As far as historical analogies go, I’d point you to severe economic dislocations that followed comparable instances of indiscriminate public largesse, such as the post-Congress of Vienna (1814/15) slump, or the problems after WW1 and WW2.
Those doing the war profiteering will fight peace tooth and nail. And then some.