Questions and answers from the Government’s second press conference for children

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Answers given at a press conference for children on 15 April by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby and Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad.

How many years will it take before COVID-19 disappears?

From Aria (8) of Molde

That’s a little hard to answer, because we don’t really know if it will ever go away completely. It could be that it won’t be so dangerous anymore. Many of the measures we have now introduced will be with us for some time – like distancing, washing our hands and other things we do to avoid spreading the virus. We are working to develop a vaccine. Lots of excellent researchers around the world are working on it, and Norway is giving money to support that research, but it may take a while before we have a vaccine. If we get one, we will be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable people. Then this illness could be a little more like the usual influenza we see every winter, with some people getting sick, but not as many as now.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

Why is it safe for little children to go to school and day-care, if the bigger kids have to stay home?

From Emilie (9) of Harstad

I understand that can be a little confusing. It is safe for all children. The reason we are having the younger ones start first is so there will not be too many children at school at the same time. When we were choosing whether to start with the youngest or the oldest kids, we realised that it’s the youngest who need it most. If you are in your fifth or sixth year of school, and you are a helpmate for younger pupils or have younger brothers or sisters, then you know you can do a little more schoolwork on your own, while the littlest children need more help. That’s why we think it’s important that they start first.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Do you know if the schools will open before 18 May? That is when Mamma, my sister and I will be moving, and we want to say goodbye to the old class.

From Marie (12) of Skreia

I wish I had a clear answer for everyone wondering when they can go back to school. Unfortunately, we don’t have one yet. The goal is for everyone to begin before summer, but we do not know exactly when. We are working on that right now. I really hope you get the chance to say goodbye to your old classmates, because that’s important – whether you get to do it before 18 May or afterwards, and whether you do it physically or even digitally. Saying goodbye to good friends is always important.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Can we go home with our friends after school?

From Benedikte (10) of Narvik

Yes, you may, but it is important to remember to keep your distance and preferably be together outdoors. And no more than five playmates may be together through the whole period, no matter how old you are. And you must remember to wash your hands before, during and after visiting.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

Is the coronavirus dangerous for animals? I have a cat that’s outside a lot – could it become infected?

From Ronja (9) of Skien

No, with what we know now, we don’t think animals can be infected. Your cat can be outdoors safely, and you can go for walks, and you can safely cuddle with it when it comes back inside to you.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

When will school begin for kids in years 5 to 7, and will the kids in years 1 to 4 have to stay home then?

From Nathalie (10) of Haugesund

We have not decided that yet. We will have to see how things go and get some practice. For now, we are making clear rules for how schools will be when they open. They come on Monday, so the teachers and the head teacher have a week to get ready. Then the children in years 1 to 4 will arrive, so there won’t be too many all at once, and we will figure out the best way to proceed. I hope it will go smoothly enough that the kids in years 5 to 7 will be able to come before too long.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Can we visit our grandmother and grandfather in Germany during the summer holiday?

From Nila and Clara (7½) of Haugesund

There are still two months before summer holiday, so we don’t yet know what the rules will be. But I think we should prepare ourselves for not being able to travel outside of the country on holiday. Fortunately there are many ways to stay in contact – like Skype, telephone, letters and email. It’s possible that things will become easier. The Germans have not been hit that hard by the virus, but I don’t think any of us would risk planning a holiday abroad this summer – at least not yet. We still have to focus on keeping the virus from spreading.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

When years 1 to 4 start school, can the kids in years 5 to 7 be with their friends normally again, instead of keeping a distance of 1 m?

From Ada (10) of Bergen

One of the things I miss most is getting hugs from children other than my own, and meeting people outside of my own family, and I understand very well that you miss that too. But we have to remember that what we’ve been doing has worked, even if it is a little boring. It has kept very many people from becoming sick, so it is important that we continue doing it. It is almost more important now, as we start opening the schools and day-care centres. So we have to keep following the same rules we have followed in recent weeks.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

I wonder if we can do penalty shootouts in football? If the goalie brings the ball, can he then touch it with his hands if the others only touch the ball with their feet and stay 2 m away from each other, and there are no more than five players?

From Erwin (9)
Yes, you can. I am impressed how well you read the rules. I almost suspect you’re going to use this to get permission to play penalty shots. It is very important, as you say, that there are only five players and they keep the required distance. Touching the ball can pass along the infection, so is important to wear goalie gloves, and you must not spit in the gloves for a better grip, as some goalies like to do. And only that one person can touch the ball. So if the ball goes outside the pitch, you can only use your feet to get it back, unless you are the goalie.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

When can basketball and tennis and other activities like that start up again?

From Jakob (12) of Sandvika

We don’t know yet. It depends on whether you have to touch the ball or can adjust the rules a little. Playing basketball the usual way is a problem, but each of you could take your own ball, for example, and play at one basket. I have checked various basketball, football and tennis websites and see that they give tips for playing in a somewhat different way.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

What will it be like when school starts again – will we have to stay 2 m away from each other in the classroom, and what about when the teacher is helping us?

From Hedda (12) and Elise (7) of Halden

We are still making the rules that will apply when school opens. Those rules will be ready next Monday. Teachers, head teachers and health experts are sitting together making the rules so it will be safe at school. You will be able to learn and have good contact with your teachers.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

When we get back to school will there be breaks between periods, since the virus can spread so easily then?

From Chiansa (10) and Amilia (8) of Kolbotn

There is still a lot we don’t know, and we will know more next week, but clearly you have to have breaks. Getting fresh air is important, and so is having pauses, and it could be that some of you will have more outdoor school than you are used to. Your school day might be a little different than usual, and some of you might be in a different place. We are still working it all out, but breaks are important.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Will I be allowed to come to Norway on summer holiday?

From Kaiakena (9) of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands

It is a little early to know what the summer holiday period will be like. All Norwegian citizens are permitted to return to Norway. Unfortunately, there are so few flights that it can be hard getting physically to Norway. But if you do find a flight, there is an important rule today that might also apply this summer: if you come to Norway from abroad you have to spend 14 days in quarantine. That means you must stay in your house or another place for 14 days to see whether you have carried the illness from where you were before. So the first 14 days could be a little boring. But if there is an airplane and you don’t mind spending 14 days in quarantine, you are welcome to come to Norway.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

Will summer be ruined because of the coronavirus?

From Emma (10) Stavanger

No, but it will be different. There are lots of things to do. I’m pretty sure travelling a little around Norway will be permitted. Just how much remains to be seen. If we follow the rules and manage to keep the infection under control, and all the children tell all the adults to behave properly, we will probably be able to travel around Norway doing things. I was in Stavanger last year, for example, and went to Preikestolen. That was a lovely trip. There are many nice places to go, like wonderful beaches and other places to swim in Norway. You just have to distance yourself from others, so not everyone can lie on the same beach. We have to find other places to be than everyone else. But I think we will have a great summer this year too.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

We wonder when we can have birthday parties for the whole class?

From Øydis (9) of Tu in Bryne

Unfortunately we do not know yet. I have seen that many kids are celebrating birthdays digitally, and finding creative ways to do it. I have a good friend who turned 40, and his daughter turned 8 on the same day. They really looked forward to having a birthday party, but couldn’t. So the mother contacted all the neighbours and got them to go out on their verandas, so when the father and the girl went for a walk everyone clapped and sang birthday songs and cheered. I thought that was wonderfully creative. If you have some friends with a birthday soon, and you know they would have liked to invite the whole class, but can’t, maybe you could think about trying something like that, to make others happy.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

Will the coronavirus last all through 2020?

From Sofia (11) and Ella (11) of Stavanger

We still don’t know, but it will probably last quite a while. And as the Prime Minister says, how we behave is very important. If we are very good at washing her hands, distancing ourselves from others and making sure our friends do not gather too much in one place, it will be over more quickly. Fortunately, some of the very best researchers are doing all they can to create better treatments and a vaccine so you will not become sick. We hope that will arrive as soon as possible. That will keep us from getting sick, and might also make the virus disappear sooner.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

What happens if everyone all over Norway gets the coronavirus?

From Jørgen (9) of Våle, near Holmestrand

We hope that does not happen. That is why we are very keen to follow these infection control rules, as we call them. Like sneezing into our elbow, washing our hands and all the other things we do. Also, some people might have had the infection already without even knowing it. Some cases are very light, like a little cold, and maybe the people hardly noticed it. That is especially true for children. A lot of kids who have had the infection did not notice much. But some do get very sick from it. What’s important to us is to keep down the number of people who become very ill, so our hospitals will be able to provide good treatment to everyone.

That is one of the important goals we have set. That is why it is important to keep this under control. Some people think we will become immune if everyone has had it. And there actually is some discussion among researchers about how immune you become if you have had it or not. We don't know that either. It might sound silly, but we really don't know much about all aspects of this virus yet. Because it is so new, we are still learning. Many great scientists are working on vaccines and treatments and trying to understand how the virus behaves when it enters our body and changes over time.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

When can we go back to doing all our normal things?

From Tuva (6) of Trondheim

We don’t actually know that, either. It’s too bad that has to be our answer so frequently.

Even we adults, including the smartest ones, don’t have answers for now. But if we do the right things and succeed in controlling this virus and making sure that not everyone gets infected simultaneously, we will gradually be able to go back to our old lives. But it makes sense to keep using these infection control rules anyway. Maybe then we will have less influenza each winter. We might also have to keep these distancing rules in place for some time. Before we can go back to how things were, we might have to develop better treatments or a vaccine.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

When can we give hugs again?

From Solvor (8) of Trondheim

I wonder the same thing, because I miss giving hugs to my friends. We just don’t know yet. For me in my role as Prime Minister, it might take quite a long time. But if you are lucky enough to have a brother or a sister and Mamma and Pappa, I am quite sure that they need a good hug, so it is best to give hugs to those you can – those who are closest to you.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

Won’t the virus be extra contagious when we start school again? Why should we go back to school then?

From Sarah (9) of Asker

There are many people who are worried about that. It is very understandable. But I can promise that we would never reopen all the schools and day-care centres if we did not think it was safe. It is also important to say that everyone actually needs to be in school and day-care – both to learn and to be together with friends and the adults who are there.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

What will it take to open the lower secondary schools again, and how much time must pass after the day-care centres and primary schools open before you decide? There has been a lot of talk about smaller children, and I feel not much is being said about youth. I fear we are being overlooked, and many of us are now feeling glum and need to get back to school.

From Thea (13)

Thank you, Thea, for reminding us that there are many children who need to go to school, including those who are a little older. I can promise that we have not forgotten you. We have talked about this many times, and we have to be sure about the steps we take. That is why we want to restart school carefully. We don’t want too many children there at the same time, so we are beginning with those who need it most. But I hope you will be able to return to school quickly, and the goal is for everyone to be there before summer.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

How did the coronavirus come to Norway?

From Sara (8) of Tvedestrand

The first person we know of in Norway who got the coronavirus had been in China. We also know that many people had been on winter vacation. Perhaps they had been skiing in Italy and Austria and became infected there. Then they came home and transmitted the virus to others here.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

Could the coronavirus come back in five years?

From Ingvild (9) of Gjettum

Yes, it could. We don’t know for sure. But by then we might have a vaccine or treatment that makes it less dangerous. Our goal is for this type of disease to become harmless. Many of the diseases we have vaccines for today were very dangerous, even for children, before we got the vaccines. Now we have control over them because we are vaccinated as small children. Researchers around the world of course are working to create a vaccine. That could take a year, or several, but if we get a vaccine it won’t matter so much if the virus returns. Because then we will be vaccinated just as we are against rubella, mumps or measles, which was once a very dangerous disease. I was very sick with measles when I was a baby.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

I wonder, has every country in the world been infected by the coronavirus?

From Ingrid (8) of Porsgrunn

Yes, almost every country has at least a case or two. Not every country has registered them yet, but all have been affected. They have all introduced protective measures, but not every country has done enough testing to know whether they have it. A pandemic, as it is called, is a disease that spreads around the world.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

How are we supposed to keep distance from others when we sit around the table to eat? How many people are allowed to sit at the table?

From Mathilde (8) of Bodø

Yes, if you are sitting around the table and eating with your family, the distancing rules do not apply. There you can sit normally. When everyone is healthy, everyone can sit around the table. But create a bit more distance if other people are present, like after you come back to school. You can invite a friend for lunch at home, as Kjell Ingolf just said. You can have one or two good friends that you spend a lot of time with, but you should always keep a bit of distance between you when you are indoors. Anyone who is feeling a little sick should stay home and not visit others or have friends over. Now that the weather is warming up you can have picnics outside. Then there can be five of you altogether, sitting a little apart, but that way you can be together.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

Can children with divorced parents be with both parents, or just one?

From Tibolt (10) of Rykkin

You can be with both of your parents. Those of you with divorced parents, even if they live in different municipalities, can live with both of them, just as before.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

My great-grandfather loves the biscuits that Mamma and I bake for him. If we bake some and put a box outside his door, could he become infected?

From Joachim (8)

I would first say to Joachim that his great-grandfather is super lucky to have people who bake him biscuits. And they can continue doing so. It is important that you wash the box the biscuits are in very thoroughly, so it is nice and clean. Then he can get his biscuits.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Have you come any further in deciding how the 17 of May will be?

From Oda (8)

All the rules for celebrating the 17th of May are not ready yet. The 17th of May committees in the big cities have come out and said there will be no big parades. We just cannot do that. But I am sure we will find a good way to celebrate the 17th of May. It is up to the local committees to decide how to do it, while we make infection control rules saying how big the groups can be and how it can be organised. We have put our Minister of Culture and Equality, whose name is Abid, in charge of the 17th of May. He is working on things we can perhaps do together that will give us the feeling of a shared 17th of May celebration.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

Can we collect ‘russ’ cards and go trick-or-treating?

From Hannah (9) of Oslo

The russ celebrations in upper secondary school won’t be the same as usual this year. And russ students must follow the same guidelines as everyone else, maybe even more rigorously. The idea of touching a lot of russ cards is not very good. This means we have to think creatively about all of our 17th of May traditions, and how we can celebrate the day anyway. Fortunately, Halloween is still quite far away, so it’s too soon to say how we will celebrate that. But if we follow all the infection control rules now, it might be that you can go trick-or-treating.

(Answered by Minister of Children and Families Kjell Ingolf Ropstad)

If you have had the coronavirus, are you immune to the disease afterwards?

From Maria (10) of Askøy

We hope so, but the research on this is not entirely clear yet. There is still a lot to learn about this virus. This is one of the things the researchers are working on – whether we become completely immune, and whether some minimum level of infection is needed to become immune. We will get answers to questions like that as we do more research and testing and see the results. One thing we are going to do is to test a lot more people in Norway. We are working to increase our capacity for doing this. Then we can conduct even more research on whether we can become immune. That will be very important work.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

Is it dangerous to get COVID-19 if I have asthma?

From Maritine (10) of Lom

Luckily, children rarely become seriously ill from the coronavirus. That is also true for children who have asthma. But some people with respiratory illnesses are more vulnerable than others, so no one can say with 100% certainty how each child would respond. The virus often attacks the lungs, so it can become harder to breathe. But as I said, it is very rare for children to have symptoms, and that includes children with asthma.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

If a pupil has somebody in their family who is at risk of becoming infected, can that pupil receive instruction at home in order to avoid any contact with the virus?

From Seerat (9) of Oslo

It is important to say that everyone has the same risk of becoming infected. But it is more dangerous for some people to become sick than it is for others. For some children with certain illnesses from before, or who have a family member with such an illness, it may be a little more dangerous to become sick with the coronavirus. In that case the best advice is for your parents, and you, to talk to the doctor about whether to continue studying at home. We have said schools should help to make that possible that as well as to facilitate high-quality home instruction. And when it comes to anyone who is feeling under the weather, perhaps coughing a little, sneezing a little, or having a cold, it is important that they stay home until they are completely well, so we can be sure no one with the coronavirus is going to school.

(Answered by Minister of Education and Integration Guri Melby)

Is it possible to pass the coronavirus on to other people without having symptoms?

From Selma (10), Camilla (10) and Caroline (11) of Bodø

Yes, many people have become infected without having symptoms. That’s why we are asking everyone to practice distancing. Things would be easier if we knew we could not transmit the virus without noticing it. But we believe people are contagious during the days before they become sick.

(Answered by Prime Minister Erna Solberg)

‘I must now say thank you to everyone,” the Prime Minister said. ‘I know there were quite a lot of questions we did not get to, but we cannot take them all. Thank you for asking so many good questions. I could tell by the questions that you have learned a great deal about the coronavirus. These questions were almost harder to answer than the ones we got last time.’