A new and even harsher crackdown on the Corona virus in Oslo has been met by disappointment and resignation, but also some relief. With infection levels higher than they’ve ever been in the Norwegian capital, most recognize the need for more attempts at control, and teachers especially will be better protected.
“This will help calm things down and give us more certainty in these next few weeks before the Easter holidays,” Aina Skjefstad Andersen, head of the teachers’ union (Utdannings-forbund) in Oslo, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday.
Infection has suddenly been spreading most among children and youth, especially those aged 10 to 19. With most elementary schools open, teachers have been exposed to the virus on a whole new scale. Even children under the age of six have been testing positive after new strains of the virus have spread at local day care centers. That also boosts the risk of infection spreading to their parents and grandparents.
“The teachers and other school employees have been uneasy for a long time, and this is all very demanding,” Andersen said. “They’re at high risk (especially from the new virus mutations causing the most trouble at present) and they’re also afraid they’ll infect others.”
All schools now on ‘red alert’
Now all schools and day care centers in Oslo have been moved over to the “red alert” level, which can mean more digital instruction at home and smaller groups at school. High schools, colleges and universities and trade schools will continue in “red” mode, with most all instruction via digital means. It’s been difficult to follow infection rules in crowded classrooms, and now each individual school can decide what’s best for them.
Oslo’s top politician in charge of education is also considering mandatory use of face masks for all school employees and both students and employees at the high school level. All indoor sports and after-school activities have also been halted, and only 10 people including children can assemble outdoors.
No guests at home
City government leader Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party and his colleague in charge of health issues, Robert Steen, also cracked down on all social gatherings of any sort. They don’t want any household to invite any guests, a new rule that’s stricter than the maximum of five guests that has been allowed earlier.
“If someone invites you over for dinner, please say ‘no,'” Johansen implored Oslo residents from his podium at City Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Social events of any sort are strongly discouraged, at least until Easter. All restaurants, bars and stores were ordered to remain closed except for grocery stores, pharmacies and the state-controlled wine and liquor chain Vinmonopolet.
Infection pervades all city districts
“We are in the most challenging phase of the pandemic now,” Steen said, adding that Oslo has registered its highest daily numbers of confirmed Corona cases so far. They rose 300 percent during the last three weeks of February, hospitalizations in Oslo have more than quadrupled (from 18 to 76 a day) and infection levels are now rising in all of Oslo’s 15 districts, from Frogner in the west to Søndre Nordstrand in the southeast.
“The situation is extremely alvorlig,” Steen said. “We’ve had outbreaks at day care centers, in the schools and construction sites. Infection has also risen after parties and gatherings of youth and young adults.”
The new rules in Oslo, which already were the strictest in the nation, will remain in effect at least until just before the Easter holiday week that begins on Monday March 29, and maybe longer.