BACKGROUND: In mid-March 2020, the Norwegian government implemented measures to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and hospitals prepared to handle an unpredictable inflow of patients with COVID-19 .
AIM: The study was performed to describe the changes in hospital admissions during the first phase of the pandemic .
METHODS: The Norwegian Institute of Public Health established a national preparedness register with daily updates on COVID-19 cases and the use of health services . We used individual-level information on inpatients from the electronic journal systems for all hospitals in Norway to estimate daily hospital admissions .
RESULTS: Before the onset of the pandemic in March, there was an average of 2400 inpatient admissions per day in Norway, which decreased to approximately 1500 in the first few days after lockdown measures were implemented . The relative magnitudes of the decreases were similar in men and women and across all age groups . The decreases were substantial for both elective (54 %) and emergency (29 %) inpatient care . The admission rate gradually increased and reached pre-pandemic levels in June . However, the reductions in admissions for pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease seemed to persist .
CONCLUSIONS: The elective and emergency inpatient admission rates were substantially reduced a few days after the pandemic response measures were implemented . The ways in which the lack or postponement of care may have affected the health and well-being of patients is an important issue to be addressed in future research.
Index: COVID-19, emergency medicine, health services, pandemic