Health Minister Bent Høie now admits to being “uneasy” about the record numbers of new Corona cases being registered in Norway, mostly among young Norwegians who have returned to far more open schools in recent weeks. An additional 1,415 cases of Corona infection were confirmed heading into the weekend, another record high since the pandemic began.
“The increase is high and we don’t want too many being infected in too short of a time,” Høie said on national radio Friday morning. “I’m uneasy about the situation,” he told state broadcaster NRK.
“That’s also the reason that the government did not open up more (when it refused to further ease restrictions on public gatherings) a week and a half ago,” he continued, “but delayed the (government’s reopening) plan,” at least until mid-September.
Høie defended the decision to allow schools to reopen at the “green” level in August with few restrictions, claiming that children and teens “have suffered the consequences of not being able to be together.”
He stressed, however, that Norway itself has not been reopened. Border control remains strict and public gatherings remain limited. Ongoing restrictions on the latter have recently irritated the coach of Norway’s national football team, Ståle Solbakken, who wanted to be able to fill Oslo’s Ullevaal Stadium for next week’s critical World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands. The stadium can accommodate as many as 25,000 spectators, but only 7,000 fans will be allowed in for the match on September 1.
“We have not reopened Norway,” Høie said Friday morning. “I appeal to everyone that we can’t continue to have the kind of increases we’ve had during the past 24 hours.”
He noted that Norwegian municipalities, struggling with a sudden need for much more testing and infection tracking (called tisk-strategien), can set their own priorities since the numbers of those vaccinated are relatively high. City government officials in both Oslo and Bergen, where infection levels are especially high and infection tracking difficult, have called for clearer signals from the government as to whether they must uphold testing and infection tracking operations or whether they can be changed. Høie confirmed he was open to allowing changes, since vaccination levels are high and hospitalizations are low, even though they’re now rising again.
New figures released Friday show, however, that around half-a-million Norwegians are still not vaccinated, including those who have turned down the offer. The government continues to evaluate whether children aged 12-16 will also be offered vaccinations.