Justice Minister Monica Mæland confirmed on Wednesday that the government is dropping its highly unpopular proposal to impose curfews in Norway, as a means of controlling the Corona virus. It’s been utterly slammed during the hearing process, so Mæland’s ministry won’t be forwarding the curfew proposal to Parliament.
“There’s been a lot of public engagement on the issue, and that’s good,” Mæland told Norwegian Broadcasting during an early morning newscast. She thinks the proposal was well-presented, though, and defended the government’s decision to air it publicly.
“But it was a proposal that was extremely controversial,” Mæland said. “It’s important that we have such debates.” Norway’s own public health institute (FHI), the Norwegian Bar Association and the national organization representing cities and towns all over the country had been among those arguing against curfews. Many legal experts had equated it to a form of house arrest that was unacceptable in Norway.
It was State Health Director Dr Bjørn Guldvog who had wanted the ability to impose curfews if Corona virus infection levels spun out of control, and the government followed up. He was at odds, though, with other health professionals at FHI and met massive resistance during the public hearing round.
Curfew issue also split the government
There had also been dissension within Norway’s own government coalition, with the Liberal Party strongly opposed to curfews even though they’ve been imposed in several other democratic European countries, not just by authoritarian regimes like China.
“I’m glad the proposal is being dropped,” Guri Melby, the Liberal Party leader who also serves as education minister, told NRK. “The hearing round gave us many good reasons as to why curfews are so invasive and why we don’t need them. We have a system based on public confidence in our infection control policy and it has functioned well.”
Others claimed it was important to at least launch the proposal and let interested parties have their say. Melby agreed, and said she was glad the proposal had been dropped when opposition was so strong.
“To forbid people from leaving their own homes is a very strong assault on individual freedom,” Melby said. “This would have amounted to going too far, especially in a situation where we have managed to gain control over infection with our existing measures.”
Only a ‘last resort’
Prime Minister Erna Solberg had defended the curfew hearing process. “No one wants curfews in Norway,” she told Parliament last month, “but if infection comes completely out of control and life and health for many people is seriously threatened, it can be a last resort.”
Her government has also acted throughout the Corona crisis on the advice of health professionals, and both Guldvog and his popular assistant, Dr Espen Nakstad, were keen to simply be able to impose curfews “in a completely extraordinary situation, in a serious pandemic, as a useful tool in some cases.”
He wasn’t surprised by all the opposition to curfews, but isn’t completely giving them up. “This means that for we won’t have this tool in our toolbox,” Nakstad told NRK. “It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible in the future to re-examine such a proposal again.”