Introduction by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the press conference on the coronavirus situation and the Christmas holidays, 2 December 2020.
Good afternoon everybody,
I announced last week that we would issue the clearest possible guidelines we could ahead of the Christmas holidays.
Having taken professional advice from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health, we have worked to strike the right balance. It is not a straightforward task.
We live different lives with different family patterns and constellations.
And Christmas is very much a time for closeness rather than distance.
Our starting point is that we want everyone to celebrate Christmas with as many of the people they want around them as possible.
We deserve this much - especially this year.
At the same time, we are concerned that Christmas celebrations may lead to a rise in infections across our society.
We have no desire to start the new year with rising infection rates and new restrictions during January.
None of us want that.
We believe that the recommendations I am about to go through will mean most people can enjoy the festive season.
Albeit there may be some differences from what we are used to.
The first main rule remains the need to limit the total number of people you come into social contact with across the Christmas and New Year period.
This also applies during the run up to Christmas. And throughout the Christmas shopping season. It may be a good idea for some of us to get up early to avoid queues and large gatherings in the shops. We have to spread out.
The second main rule is also a well-known one: Everyone must maintain a distance of at least one metre from people they do not live with.
These distancing rules apply at all times. From serving up the mulled wine to sitting down at the dining table. When handing out Christmas presents. As well as when it is time for coffee and biscuits.
We are retaining the recommendation that people should have no more than 5 guests in their home until the New Year.
However: On two days we are allowing people to have up to 10 guests. This will mean that up to 10 guests are permitted on Christmas Eve AND up to 10 guests are permitted on New Year’s Eve, or on two other days that you may choose during this period.
However, if you are unable to host 10 guests at Christmas while maintaining distancing of at least one metre between people who do not live together, you must invite fewer people. The number of guests must therefore be adapted to the space available to you.
In allowing people to host more guests, we are completely reliant on you all being careful to stick to the two main rules:
1) Limit your number of social contacts during the period.
You should not have five new visitors every day and then ten new visitors on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Your total number of contacts must be limited in comparison with a normal Christmas holiday period.
And 2) You must maintain distancing of at least one metre.
If you come from areas with high rates of infection, you should maintain two metres’ distance from people in risk categories.
The guidelines I have just gone over are at a national level.
In places with high rates of infection, it may be that there are stricter rules in place at a municipal level in terms of the number of guests and the degree of social contact permitted over Christmas.
You should therefore stay up-to-date with all the information relating to the place where you will be celebrating Christmas.
The government recommends that you avoid unnecessary domestic and foreign travel.
Journeys at Christmas can be quite rightly described as necessary for many. The alternative would be Christmas without family.
It is acceptable to travel domestically to a second home so long as you comply with the general rules relating to travel and social contacts.
However, I wish to emphasise: This is not a Christmas for you to travel abroad unless you truly must.
We know that many people usually use the Christmas holidays to visit families overseas.
My concern is that those people who choose to travel abroad may return with the infection.
This is why I wish to issue my strongest reminder to you about the quarantine regulations.
If you choose to travel abroad this Christmas, or receive visitors from abroad, you must comply with the quarantine regulations.
Everyone must complete 10 days in quarantine after visiting a red country. And quarantine must be completed in complete accordance with the rules.
We are approaching the end of a tough year.
During the last few weeks, I have held consultations with people from across the country about issues including mental health and loneliness.
One point that was made to me during these meetings was that parents must remember that they are the most important people in their children’s lives.
They are not only the most important people in the lives of small children, but also the lives of the biggest children.
Don’t give them too long a leash. Take an interest and talk to them about how they are doing.
I am saying this now in the hope that many will find solace in good conversations and doing cosy things together at Christmas.
Across the generations.
And let me emphasise this: Children and young people whose parents are divorced may continue living with both their parents just as normal throughout the Christmas holidays.
Although everyone deserves to spend Christmas with their nearest and dearest, I am well aware that not everyone will have someone with them at the dining table this Christmas.
A limit of 10 guests is not an issue if you have no one to invite.
Voluntary organisations that organise alternative Christmas and New Year celebrations can and should continue to do so provided that they comply with the recommended infection prevention measures.
In most places, this will mean that voluntary organisations may gather up to fifty people indoors with social distancing of one metre.
This year, the government has granted extra funding to support Christmas activities and support services.
A total of NOK 25 million has been released to ensure that activities and help are available this festive season.
Many people have loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals. Just like everyone else, people living in nursing homes are welcome to visit their loved ones this Christmas.
However: In areas with high rates of infection, nursing homes should engage in dialogue with residents and their families to establish whether leave is appropriate based on the local situation in terms of infections.
Testing and quarantine procedures following any period of leave may provide extra assurance.
I hope everyone will work to include people who are alone during advent and at Christmas.
The most important acts can often be those that cost nothing.
An invitation for a short stroll, a chat on the phone or a video call.
That can provide more warmth than you might think.