Nordic Responses to Covid-19: Governance and Policy Measures in the Early Phases of the Pandemic

Ingrid Sperre Saunes*, Karsten Vrangbæk, Haldor Byrkjeflot, Signe Smith Jervelund, Hans Okkels Birk, Liina-Kaisa Tynkkynen, Ilmo Keskimäki, Sigurbjörg Sigurgeirsdóttir, Nils Janlöv, Joakim Ramsberg, Cristina Hernández-Quevedo, Sherry Merkur, Anna Sagan, Marina Karanikolos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper explores and compares health system responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, in the context of existing governance features. Content compiled in the Covid-19 Health System Response Monitor combined with other publicly available country information serve as the foundation for this analysis. The analysis mainly covers early response until August 2020, but includes some key policy and epidemiological developments up until December 2020.

Our findings suggest that despite the many similarities in adopted policy measures, the five countries display differences in implementation as well as outcomes. Declaration of state of emergency has differed in the Nordic region, whereas the emphasis on specialist advisory agencies in the decision-making process is a common feature. There may be differences in how respective populations complied with the recommended measures, and we suggest that other structural and circumstantial factors may have an important role in variations in outcomes across the Nordic countries. The high incidence rates among migrant populations and temporary migrant workers, as well as differences in working conditions are important factors to explore further. An important question for future research is how the COVID-19 epidemic will
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Policy
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Epub ahead of print. Published online: 5 September 2021.


  • Health policy and administration
  • Public health
  • Comparative Research
  • Governance
  • System level
  • Influence legislation and key principles of governance in the Nordic countries

Cite this