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Storting adopts Coronavirus Act

The Storting today adopted temporary legislation that will authorise the Government to carry out necessary and proportionate adaptive measures for a limited period to address the effects of the coronavirus.

‘On behalf of the Government, I would first of all like to thank the Storting for the confidence it has now shown us. We will manage this responsibility in a sound way, and we will work closely with the Storting in the period ahead. This act has come about in cooperation with the parties in the Storting, which agree that special circumstances demand special measures,’ said Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland (Conservative Party).

 

The Government has already introduced a number of sweeping measures pursuant to Norway’s Act relating to control of communicable diseases. When it comes to measures and adjustments needed to deal with impacts not directly related to preventing infection or strengthening the health service, the authorities are unable to employ the Act relating to control of communicable diseases as their legal basis. Something else is required.

 

‘This is not a law we would submit under normal circumstances,’ said Ms Mæland. ‘We have done this because we feel we have to. Unfortunately, we are in a crisis situation that we’ve not seen the likes of since World War II. The Norwegian authorities must be able to act quickly to limit the spread of infection and deal with the major impacts this will have on society.’

 

Currently the Ministry of Justice and Public Security lacks a full overview of the adjustments that may be needed to safeguard important public functions, though it is clear that adaptive measures lacking legal authority in existing acts will have to be introduced. There may be a need to strengthen the Norwegian Customs service so it can carry out stricter border controls. The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration may require temporary strengthening to process all the applications it receives, such as for unemployment or care benefits. At present, for example, the rules under which personnel employed by one government agency may be used temporarily to perform tasks in another agency are not clear enough.

 

‘We must ensure that those who need, and are entitled to, public benefits actually receive them. We must also have the ability to deploy resources where they are needed. And to take resources from where they are less needed,’ said Ms Maeland.

 

The act will automatically be repealed after one month. One third of the Storting can block any decision the Government takes. The draft legislation does not weaken the courts’ independence. The independence of courts and judges is protected by the Constitution.

 

‘I am pleased that the Storting has been constructive in the work of preparing this act. Together, we have adopted a temporary law that will ensure we can implement necessary measures that we would otherwise have lacked the authority to implement,’ the Minister of Justice and Public Security said.

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