UPDATED: “Our country is in a serious situation that is striking individuals and our entire society,” warned King Harald V on Thursday. As Corona virus infection soared to 621 confirmed cases, up by 163 in the past 24 hours, the monarch urged full and complete cooperation with all special preventive measures being put in place.
“It is critical that we all take part in the national effort to avoid exposing ourselves or others to infection,” King Harald stated on the Royal Palace’s website. “It is therefore important that we all follow the recommendations and measures from the authorities.”
The king also appealed to all Norwegians that “we must contribute with what we can to prevent the spread of the virus.” He issued a “special thank-you” to all health care personnel nationwide who “are doing their utmost” to address and ease the situation.
“We all hope that the development will soon change course,” King Harald wrote.
The Royal Palace also announced cancellation of all its own official events except Friday’s Council of State with members of Solberg’s government and other meetings needed with King Harald in his constitutional role as head of state. Crown Prince Haakon was also due to attend Friday’s Council of State, at which Prime Minister Erna Solberg is expected to announce more ministerial changes after recent turbulence in her cabinet.
King subject to quarantine
It later emerged, however, that both King Harald and Queen Sonja have suddenly become subject to strict new quarantine rules themselves. The rules were rolled out Thursday afternoon as part of a package of what Solberg called “the strongest preventive measures taken in Norway” since World War II.
They include a demand that everyone arriving in Norway from areas outside the Nordic countries must enter 14 days of quarantine at home. The royal couple made a state visit to Jordan last week that subjects them to quarantine along with everyone in their entourage. That includes Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and Trade Minister Iselin Nybø plus lots of other government officials.
Financial markets chaotic
More financial and economic measures to help Norwegian businesses were due to be released on Friday. Norway has long had a strong and resilient economy, backed by a huge sovereign wealth fund, but the dramatic fall in oil prices and diving stock markets has hit businesses hard along with all the disruption caused by the Corona virus.
The Oslo Stock Exchange fell even more on Thursday than it did on Monday, with its main index down 8.77 percent. The shareholders’ selloff wasn’t as limited to oil-related stocks this time, with only state oil company Equinor showing up on the most active list and down 8.44 to just under NOK 100 share for the first time in recent memory.
Instead shares fell across all sectors and hammered otherwise highly profitable companies. Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, has long ranked high as solid and profitable but it fell another 9.93 percent, while large companies like Telenor (down 6.7 percentn), salmon producer Mowi (down 5.51 percent) and fertilizer firm Yara International (down 7.31 percent) all suffered in heavy trading.