In an extraordinary meeting of the Council of State on 15 March 2020, the Government adopted new regulations on quarantine and isolation. The regulations enter into force immediately and will remain in force until 1 April, but an extension is possible. The background for these actions is the need for clear national regulation.
‘There is an evident need for clear national rules about who is to be quarantined and isolated, and what that entails. On Friday we clarified this for people coming to Norway from abroad. Now we are clarifying it for people who have been in close contact with someone who is infected,’ said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
The regulations have the following content:
The quarantine and isolation of persons coming to Norway from abroad are regulated in specific regulations issued by the Council of State on 13 March 2020. These regulations are still in force but have been updated to go with the new regulations.
Under the new regulations people shall enter quarantine if they have had close contact with someone with a confirmed coronavirus infection. This does not apply to health personnel using proper protective equipment.
‘Close contact’ refers to contact in closer proximity than two metres from other persons for more than 15 minutes, or direct physical contact.
The quarantine is to last for 14 days from the date when contact occurred. For persons who have arrived from abroad the quarantine period applies from the day they arrived in Norway.
Those in quarantine shall stay in their own home or at another suitable place of accommodation. They may go out only if they avoid close contact with others. People in quarantine shall not go to work or school, take long trips in Norway or abroad, use public transport or visit places where a large group of people is gathered.
The regulations provide for exemptions from the quarantine rules.
People who travel in connection with work between their home and workplace, and in so doing cross the borders between Norway, Sweden and Finland, are exempt from quarantine when travelling to and from work.
People who are essential to the proper operation of services related to life and health are exempt from the duty of quarantine when at work or travelling to and from work by means other than public transport. ‘Services related to life and health’ refers, among other things, to duties performed in the health and care services, security work (police, fire and rescue preparedness) and the senior management of critical public services. Use of the exemption must be clarified with the entity’s management. Persons covered by the exemption should, to the degree possible, avoid close contact with other persons, and the exemption applies only to work situations in controlled surroundings, not leisure time.
These new regulations provide for a narrower exemption than was adopted on Friday for persons who have been out of the country. This is because someone who has been in contact with people carrying the virus poses a greater risk than someone who has simply been abroad. More caution is therefore called for.
Persons confirmed as being ill with the coronavirus shall undergo isolation. Quarantined individuals who develop fever or respiratory symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath shall also be isolated.
‘Isolation’ refers to a person staying in his or her own home or another suitable place of accommodation. The person shall be isolated from other people and, to the degree possible, shall not have close contact with people in the same household. Those undergoing isolation shall remain in isolation from the time symptoms first appear until 7 days after all symptoms are gone.
Prohibition of stays at holiday properties in a municipality other than one’s home municipality
The regulations stipulate that persons who have holiday property in a municipality other than where they are registered as residing are prohibited from staying there. Maintenance or supervision that is strictly necessary to avert severe material damage is permitted.
Penalty and entry into force
Intentional or grossly negligent violation of provisions in the regulations is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to 6 months. This means that the sentencing framework is substantially reduced in comparison with the maximum penalty under the law of a fine or imprisonment for two years. For this type of offense, the penalty established by the regulations appears more proportionate.
The regulations enter into force immediately, apart from the prohibition against staying at holiday properties outside one’s own home municipality, and are to remain in effect until 1 April. The Ministry of Health and Care Services has been given authority to amend and expand the regulations. The Ministry can therefore quickly modify the regulations in accordance with needs and experience gained. The Ministry will soon provide further information on the timing of the entry into force of the prohibition against staying at holiday properties outside one’s home municipality.
Quarantine for persons arriving in Norway from abroad
The quarantine and isolation of persons coming to Norway from abroad are regulated in specific regulations issued by the Council of State on 13 March 2020. These regulations are still in force, but were amended today to introduce a duty of quarantine for all who arrive in Norway. The amendment enters into force on Tuesday 17 March 2020. This means that travellers from Sweden and Finland who come to Norway on 17 March or later must undergo quarantine if they wish to stay in Norway. For travellers from Sweden and Finland the regulations do not have retroactive effect from 27 February 2020, as they do for persons travelling from other countries. One provision in the regulations provides that persons who travel in connection with work between their home and workplace, and in so doing cross the borders between Norway, Sweden and Finland, are exempt from the duty of quarantine.