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Oslo leader also writes about Corona

The leader of Oslo’s city government has joined the ranks of those feeling a need to offer their versions of how they dealt with the Corona crisis. Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party didn’t always agree with how the Conservatives-led national government was responding, but the country and his city made it through the crisis regardless.

As the political leader of Oslo’s city government, Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party held many press conferences during the Corona crisis. He didn’t always agree with decisions made by the state government, also after it fell under his own party’s leadership last year. PHOTO: Oslo kommune

Johansen’s new book is even titled Gjennom krisa (Through the crisis), and it was released before another new book on Corona by the Conservatives’ former health minister, Bent Høie, comes out next week. While Høie wanted to write about all the unease behind the crisis, Johansen makes it clear that political leaders must lead, and should not always simply follow the advise of professionals.

That can be problematic, but Johansen insisted to newspaper Klassekampen recently that “some in this society think there’s crisis management that’s objectively and technocratically correct, and that it’s non-political. Then you should be on guard.”

Johansen also insists that “every decision we make is political, because it’s all about having to prioritize one thing and not something else.” He mostly criticizes administrative leaders within the state health directorate, who often got their way with state government officials, while journalists, Johansen claims, didn’t ask enough critical questions. They often criticized officials for not following professional advice, instead of questioning the advice that often contributed to loneliness, hit disadvantaged citizens harder and emphasized class differences.

Høie has already said he regretted closing schools for so long, therefore isolating children, restricting their education and leaving them more vulnerable to family problems at home. Johansen also touches on that in his book.

Raymond Johansen wanted to make sure his side of the Corona story got out, too. PHOTO: Cappelen Damm

While criticizing several of the decisions made by the earlier Conservatives-led government, he also lashes out in his book at his own city government and its mistakes. In his book co-written by speechwriter Anders Lundell, Johansen points to how the city didn’t respond quickly enough to the boom in infection after the summer holidays in 2020. Infection had declined after the spring, and the rapid increase in August surprised his government in Oslo.

His government was also slow in getting information out to various immigrant groups in Oslo. They ended up being hit hard by the pandemic.

Johansen irritated both the state health directorate, administrators at the state health department and in the government when he repeatedly refused to implement the measures they had proposed. He insists he has no regrets.

‘We won’t’
The health directorate has asked us to impose a general prohibition against more than 50 people gathering in a public place,” he declared at a press conference in September 2020. “We won’t.” He repeated similar refusals to go along with state measures.

Johansen, for that matter, has also criticized his own Labour Party government for allegedly “overreacting” to infection levels just before the Christmas holidays last year. New Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre basically shut down most parties at a time when Johansen thought things should open up.

He thought it was understandable that the new Omicron variants sparked concerns, “but we quite quickly could see … that people weren’t getting so sick of Omicron.” He and his city health director Robert Steen wanted to open up Oslo and Norway again in early January, “but Norway’s population had to wait until the 12th of February before measures were removed.” Berglund



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