Norwegians told to just ‘stay home’

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg addressed Parliament Thursday morning with a serious and sobering message to all Norwegians: “Stay home as much as possible and have the least possible amount of social contact with others.” That’s the only way, Solberg said, to avoid another complete lockdown.

A deeply concerned Prime Minister Erna Solberg addressed the Norwegian Parliament on what she called an “extremely serious” Corona situation in the country on Thursday. She also unveiled much tougher anti-infection measures for the weeks ahead. PHOTO: Stortinget

Solberg’s government just imposed stricter Corona virus containment measures last week. Now, she said, “we don’t have time to wait and see whether they’ll be enough” to stop skyrocketing levels of Corona infection in Norway.

“We must act now,” Solberg told Parliament, noting that the situation in Norway had “worsened dramatically” in the past week. She called the situation “extremely” serious after a surge in the numbers of people in Norway testing positive for Covid-19.

She added that it’s also become increasingly difficult for local authorities to trace the sources of infection. The biggest fear is the pressure that the second wave of Corona infection will put on health care services and hospital capacity. Solberg wants to make sure they don’t break down.

“We haven’t lost control, but we have less control than we want,” Solberg said before unveiling yet another and much tougher list of anti-infection measures.

The most important, she stressed, is to continue to follow the fundamental advice to stay at least a meter apart from others, wash hands frequently, stay home especially if feeling ill and strictly limit the numbers of people met for any reason.

Now her government is going much further. In addition to the tighter regulations introduced last week, she now wants everyone to stay at least two meters apart from people in high-risk groups, especially the elderly. All travel within Norway should be avoided in addition to travel abroad. Business travel should be re-evaluated and avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Schools and day care centers aren’t being ordered to close yet, but all universities, colleges and trade schools should evaluate reductions in classroom teaching, also to reduce traffic on public transport systems. Most high schools and junior high schools must also prepare for “red” status, as Solberg called it, suggesting potential closure.

Restaurants weren’t ordered to close either, but all eating and drinking establishments nationwide must stop serving from midnight and no new guests can be admitted after 10pm. Those rules already apply in Oslo and some other cities, but will now apply around the country.

Entry rules tightening
The government is also tightening entry into Norway considerably, for both foreign workers in Norway and everyone coming from countries where infection rates are high. They’ll now need to present, upon arrival in Norway, documentation of a negative Covid-19 test taken within the preceding 72 hours. Norwegians, foreigners living or working in Norway and travellers in transit will be exempted, but the new testing rule will otherwise apply from midnight Sunday November 8.

Visitors arriving in Norway who don’t live in Norway or have an employer or business in Norway will also need to stay in a quarantine hotel and be tested during the quarantine period. The new rule will also apply to family members visiting relatives in Norway, with details soon to be worked out by state health authorities.

Solberg further unveiled a long list of new regulations including a halt to all sporting activities for adults, use of face masks in taxis in addition to public transport, obligatory use of home offices and likely reduced operations or closure of swimming pools, training centres, bingo parlours, museums, libraries and public arenas that can’t offer assigned seating.

“We know this will mean that many social events will need to be cancelled in the weeks ahead, but now the time for parties is over,” Solberg said.

Her remarks were met with support from other political parties in Parliament, although several in opposition also called for more state compensation to people and businesses who’ll once again be adversely affected by the latest crackdown.  The new rules are expected to be in effect for at least the next four weeks.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund