Prime Minister Erna Solberg´s introduction to the coronavirus press conference in Marmorhallen, 18 January 2021.
I have just delivered a statement to the Storting.
In the statement, I was clear that the infection situation in Norway remains serious.
This morning, I spoke with various heads of government.
In many of the European countries, there are curfews, lockdowns, major concerns regarding the rapid spread of the British mutated virus, high numbers of fatalities and buckling healthcare services.
Norway has one of the very strongest border controls in Europe, and a relatively moderate level of measures imposed on our residents and businesses.
I believe this is an appropriate prioritisation.
At home, the infection numbers have increased during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and into the new year.
The disease also spread into new areas.
The new variant of the virus – which is far more contagious – concerns us.
Throughout the crisis, we have attempted to strike a balance between what is proportional in light of the infection situation and taking a precautionary approach and acting quickly enough.
At the start of this year, we feared that the pandemic could get out of control and that Norway could be entering a new wave of infections.
On this basis, the Norwegian Government decided on 3 January to introduce strict measures, nationwide.
It is too soon to fully assess the effects of these measures, but the infection numbers we are currently looking at indicate that they have been effective.
I am pleased that people throughout the country have contributed to the effort of reducing the infection numbers.
Thank you so much.
However, infection in Norway remains at such a high level that it is necessary to continue the strict measures.
Therefore, most of the prevailing national infection control measures and recommendations will remain in effect.
At the same time, we are making some adjustments to the national recommendations, effective Wednesday 20 January.
We are doing this, among other things, in order to make the everyday lives of children and young people a little more normal.
These are changes:
- The national level of measures for lower and upper secondary schools is downgraded from red to yellow. The municipalities may maintain a red level through this week if they need to prepare for the transition. However, municipalities with high rates of infection should consider maintaining the red level in lower and upper secondary schools, and, if needed, also return to a red level in day-care facilities and primary schools.
- Local training sessions and leisure activities for children and young people will no longer be discouraged. Children and young people under 20 years of age may train and participate in leisure activities as usual, both outdoors and indoors, and may be exempted from the recommendation of one-metre physical distancing. Ordinary training activities internally in clubs, teams and associations may therefore be held. However, matches, tournaments and events, including for children and young people, must still be postponed.
- For adults, the recommendation to not conduct organised activities indoors remains in effect. Adults may participate in exercise outdoors, if it is possible to maintain sufficient physical distancing.
- The elite tiers of sports are recommended to postpone all league matches for two weeks.
- We recommend that everyone limit social contact to the greatest extent possible. We encourage as many as possible to only meet outdoors.
- The recommendation to avoid home visits will not be continued. This means that we can once again have up to five guests in addition to household members.
- Most private gatherings and various events should still be postponed or cancelled. However, if they are to be held, the following rules apply: For private gatherings, such as a birthday celebration in rented premises, the limit is a maximum of ten attendees. If the private gathering is taking place outdoors, the limit is 20 attendees. For other events, e.g., a funeral, there are no changes to the rules regarding the number of attendees.
- We do not recommend participation in cultural events, courses, conferences and religious and life stance ceremonies outside of your own municipality for the next two weeks. This includes both outdoor and indoor events.
- Event organisers are encouraged to cancel events that gather individuals from different municipalities.
- The recommendation of digital instruction at universities, university colleges and vocational schools is adjusted, entailing that use of digital instruction is now recommended where this is possible. Planned events should be digital and larger lectures and gatherings should be avoided. All students in areas without high rates of infection should receive in-person instruction at least once a week where it is possible to implement smaller groups and in accordance with infection control.
- The recommendation to avoid non-essential domestic and international travel remains in effect. Travel to places of study will continue to be considered essential travel, while travel to participate in events is, in principle, not considered essential travel. Stays in cabins in Norway with members of your household continues to be permitted, in accordance with the prevailing local and national advice and rules.
- We are also maintaining the national ban on serving alcohol. We will review this measure again next week. All other measures remain in effect as long as they are needed, but the Norwegian Government will continuously assess the situation.
Even though we are now adjusting the national recommendations somewhat, the backdrop is serious – both in Norway and, not least, in several European countries, which are experiencing high fatality rates and overwhelmed hospital capacity.
We cannot allow for this to occur here.
Therefore, we must be prepared to live with measures that restrict our lives, even though immunisation is well underway.
As Bent said in the Storting, more than 80 per cent of the Norwegian population now say they will very likely or likely accept the vaccine.
This morning, 48,680 Covid-19 immunisations were registered in the national immunisation register, SYSVAK.
Yesterday, the very first person to be vaccinated here in Norway received his second dose.
We hope that a large share of the high-risk groups will be vaccinated by Easter.
We now believe we will be able to offer the vaccine to all adults who wish to receive it this summer.
There are still some uncertainties regarding deliveries and which vaccines will be approved. Therefore, we must make reservations in this regard.
There is light at the end of the tunnel.
However, it is quite some time until we can relax.
I have an important message for the Norwegian people today:
We must continue to take responsibility together.
We must take responsibility to avoid personally becoming infected, to avoid infecting others and we must limit physical social contact.
But we must also take responsibility for one another.
Many people are struggling at this time. Some have been struggling for a long time.
There are many good help lines and professionals who can help those of you who are struggling.
But it is also important that we take responsibility for one another.
Make a phone call, go for a walk, ask others how they are doing.
We need to care about one another.