Press Conference: Christmas message from Guri Melby

Christmas is coming and a tiring year is approaching its end. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone working in schools and kindergartens who do their bit every single day to ensure that children and young people are able to learn, develop and have the best possible time in what is a difficult period.  You have been doing an amazing job for a long time and you continue to do so.

We have otherwise tightened the restrictions on society to enable kindergartens and schools to remain open. Furthermore, not even at level 5 in the system that has been introduced today do we intend to fully close the schools. However, the impact of the virus is different in different places around the country. This also applies to kindergartens and schools.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health continues to state that children and young people have a lower probability of infection, and that they are less infectious to others than adults. We can say this because cases in kindergartens and schools only increased when cases in society as a whole increased, and because we have few major outbreaks even if there are high rates of infection. Employees working in educational institutions are no more vulnerable to infection that other professions, according to research carried out in Norway, as well as data from Sweden and Denmark. Fortunately. At the same time, there are many people working in schools and kindergartens who feel exposed and as if they are very close to the infection. We must respect this.

Some schools in areas with high levels of infection have struggled with high absence rates among staff and pupils alike. It has been difficult to organise children’s education. This is why we want to enable more digital distance learning from home within a set of clear criteria. The main rule will continue to be that distance learning from home should only be used when it is necessary for reasons of infection prevention. However, we are now proposing further distance learning from home for pupils over the age of 12, including at yellow level, where this is educationally justifiable.

Some pupils and teachers are anxious about being infected or ending up in quarantine before Christmas. There have been questions raised about whether the schools should break for the Christmas holidays earlier than usual. I note that some municipalities have chosen this option.

Municipalities are empowered to amend school term dates provided that pupils receive the education they require during the course of the academic year. Some people have also asked whether they can implement additional distance learning from home during the final days of term before Christmas. In this regard, such evaluations and decisions must be taken locally on the grounds that our country and our educational system are characterised by their differences.

The most important measure to avoid infection before Christmas remains for us to comply with all infection prevention regulations that apply to us.

Perhaps this is not the year to meet up with all your family friends or your nieces and nephews in Gjøvik. But children must be allowed to be children. They are allowed to meet with a few of their classmates during the twixmas period. But perhaps it would be possible for them to meet outdoors? If we are lucky, we will have a white Christmas meaning that our kids will be able to go sledging and snowman building together - these are great activities that adhere to our infection prevention rules.

Teenagers are unlikely to have a big twixmas party on 26 December. But they are permitted to gather with a few good friends around the fire, outdoors. This Christmas, we must also limit our number of social contacts. This year, I believe we all have to get a little creative if we are to keep infections down while we have a good time.