Minister infected, three more deaths

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UPDATED: Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norway’s former trade minister who recently took charge of the labour and welfare ministry, has tested positive for the Corona virus. The government confirmed more ministerial quarantines as news also broke Wednesday that a fourth person had died from the virus, and then two more.

Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norway’s Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, is now in quarantine at home after testing positive for the Corona virus. PHOTO: ASD/Jan Richard Kjelstrup

Isaksen, who recently appeared with Prime Minister Erna Solberg at one of her many press conferences, told news bureau NTB that he went straight home after being tested on Tuesday. He was first tested after his own deputy, with the title of state secretary, also was confirmed as being infected with the virus.

“I feel good and have very mild symptoms,” said Isaksen, who has small children but is now in isolation at home. He said he began to feel a cold coming on a week ago Tuesday, “but as far as I knew, I hadn’t been in any contact with anyone who was infected or who had been in any of the most infected areas abroad.” He contended that he has “tried to follow all the official advice about good hygiene” and to keep at a distance from others.

“The fact that I feel as good as I do illlustrates why the authorities are advising everyone to stay home also if they only have mild respiratory ailments, and for as long as the symptoms last,” Isaksen told NTB.

He claimed he’d continue to work “as much as normal” from home. He joins several other ministers who’ve already been in quarantine, now including Kjell Ingolf Ropstad of the Christian Democrats, who’s in charge of the ministry handling issues involving children and families. Ropstad also appeared with Solberg at a press conference Monday morning that specifically addressed questions from children all over Norway.

Torbjørn Røe Isaksen is shown here at left with arms folded at the government’s abbreviated state budget conference that began Monday evening. He’s seated between Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen (lower left) and Health Minister Bent Høie (white shirt), and just across from Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide. At lower right, Districts Minister Linda Hofstad Helleland. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Anne Kristin Hjukse

Solberg herself was not in quarantine after her government wound up an abbreviated state budget conference at the Hurdalsjøen Hotel that began Monday evening. Both Isaksen and Ropstad were at the conference, where ministers were seated at least a meter from one another. Isaksen appears hunched over in one photo from the session, sitting between Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen and Health Minister Bent Høie.

Six Corona deaths now confirmed
The mayor of Lillestrøm, meanwhile, confirmed reports in local newspaper Romerikes Blad on Wednesday morning that a fourth Norwegian had died from the virus. The victim was an elderly patient at the Skedsmotun nursing home at Skedsmo in Lillestrøm, just northeast of Oslo.

Two more deaths were confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, one at a nursing home in Ringsaker and another at the hospital in Bærum, just west of Oslo.

As in all of Norway’s three earlier deaths tied to the Covid-19 Corona virus, the deceased were elderly and already suffering from prior ailments. Lillestrøm Mayor Jørgen Vik expressed condolences as did officials in Ringsaker and Bærum.

Eight cases of Corona infection have been confirmed at the nursing home at Skedsmo, after it spread among a resident, an employee and two visitors, all of whom have tested positive. The nursing home has set up an isolation ward for other infected residents while infected staff members were in isolation at home. The municipality of Lillestrøm had registered a total of 25 Corona cases as of Wednesday morning.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund