Høie preparing stricter Corona rules

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Health Minister Bent Høie confirmed on Tuesday that the government will be rolling out even stricter Corona rules later this week, aimed at halting or least slowing down Norway’s suddenly rapid rate of infection. “Now it’s serious,” Høie said at the government’s press conference on Tuesday.

Health Minister Bent Høie announced another looming crackdown on the spread of the Corona virus. PHOTO: Regjeringen

The decision to issue a new Corona crackdown comes after Norway has registered its highest number of new Corona cases in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. The numbers had already been skyrocketing in a country that earlier has avoided the extent of infection, illness and deaths elsewhere in Europe.

“If this trend continues, our health services will be on their knees, like in country after country in Europe,” Høie said. “Infection is spreading so quickly, and tracing its source has become so difficult that we can’t wait and see whether the measures announced last week will be adequate.”

He was referring to Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s decision last week to further limit the numbers of people allowed to gather socially, also in private homes, and strengthen quarantine rules, especially for foreign workers. Various municipalities around Norway, including the City of Oslo, also issued new and tougher local measures to hinder the spread of the virus.

Super-spreaders
There have since been incidents, however, involving social gatherings where the virus has spread, including a wedding in Oslo at which guests were exposed. Høie noted that there have been virus outbreaks in every county in the country and that state officials need to act now in order to retain control over the virus.

Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, head of Norway’s public health institute FHI, warned that hospital admissions and deaths were expected to keep rising. The number of Covid-19 patients currently being treated in hospital has tripled in the past few weeks and another person died in Oslo on Tuesday.

“Since the week beginning October 19, the numbers have just gone straight up,” Stoltenberg said at the press conference. “The numbers of people needing intensive care will also increase.”

Benefits extended
Høie also announced that the government is extending its temporary liberalization of sick pay rules through the end of 2021. Sole proprietors will now be able to claim sick pay from the fourth day of illness instead of the 17th, while families will be granted 40 days of full pay when parents need to take care of sick children. Increased unemployment benefits will also be extended.

Høie didn’t detail the stricter rules now under consideration. They’re due to be announced later this week. He spent lots of time at Tuesday’s press conference explaining why he believes Norwegians will respect the new regulations, noting how many youth voluntarily gave up Halloween parties last weekend and social meetings have been cancelled. He doesn’t think Norwegians are so weary of the Corona crisis that they’ll ignore rules that may save their lives.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund