Speech/statement | Date: 14/01/2021
By Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland (Press conference about the coronavirus situation, January 13 2021)
Good Wednesday afternoon, everyone,
In recent days there has been a lot of talk about the situation at our borders.
Therefore, let me begin by saying that Norway has some of the strictest rules regarding entry and testing in Europe.
This has been effective, and the Norwegian Government has prioritised the implementation of a testing system and controls at the border as quickly as possible.
This means that instead of waiting to implement a perfect system, we have preferred to launch and continuously improve the system – rather than wait.
I understand the objections to individuals entering Norway without being tested.
I also take issue with this.
There is a statutory requirement that travellers be tested at border crossings or no later than 24 hours after arrival.
Therefore, non-compliance with these rules is punishable.
We are currently also seeing that the risk of import infection is growing, and we are therefore implementing additional measures.
We will have better control and will further limit import infection.
It is already a requirement to present a negative coronavirus test that has been taken in the last 72 hours prior to arrival.
All travellers must also register their name and contact information so that they can be followed up in the municipality in which they are staying and by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority.
With few exceptions, all travellers are also required to undergo quarantine.
We want all travellers to be tested at the border and we are therefore currently working on enhancing testing capacity at border crossings.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health will request all municipalities with points of entry to Norway to significantly enhance their testing capacity.
Once testing capacity has been enhanced, the Norwegian Government will consider introducing mandatory testing at the border. This will entail a removal of the 24-hour time limit and a requirement for all travellers arriving in Norway to be tested at the border.
We have also received feedback that it may be challenging for municipalities to follow-up entry registration and monitor whether travellers arriving in the municipality have been tested and undergone quarantine.
We are responsive to these concerns.
In order to assist the municipalities, the Norwegian Government will therefore establish a separate national call centre that will be tasked with following up all travellers.
The centre will be able to communicate in multiple languages and shall ease the burden on the municipalities in reducing import infection and preventing the spread of mutated viruses.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health has been tasked with establishing this centre and will now hire approximately 160 staff members required for this work.
The Norwegian Government will cover all of the municipalities’ expenses for testing of travellers so that the wait time can be kept under one hour.
NOK 650 million has been allocated for this purpose in 2021, which includes testing at quarantine hotels.
The municipalities have also been allocated approximately NOK 320 million to conduct monitoring activities.
I encourage all of the municipalities to conduct spot checks to verify whether or not travellers have actually been tested for coronavirus and are observing the duty to quarantine.
Those who do not submit to testing within 24 hours risk hefty fines.
Fines of up to NOK 20,000 are common for breaches of the regulations
Foreign nationals with false certificates of a negative Covid-19 test will not only be expelled but also fined.
This will result in increased compliance with the testing system.
I will now say a few words on entry registration:
All persons crossing the border, including Norwegian citizens, shall as a general rule, register themselves in the digital entry register that was established on 2 January.
The experience to date is that not all persons arriving at the border have filled out the documentation for entry.
There are also too many people using the paper form instead of electronic entry registration.
We will, of course, be transitioning away from the paper form.
The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) is now considering how registration can be completed electronically for all travellers.
We are also working to improve the digital solution so that it will become impossible to proceed in the form without providing complete information.
This will streamline the municipalities’ work with contact tracing and make it easier to follow up whether travellers are actually submitting to mandatory testing.
There has also been a need to make the form available in additional languages. Currently, the digital registration form is available in six languages: Norwegian, English, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian and Romanian.
We are currently working on making it available in additional languages.
Finally; a few words on the consultative proposal regarding curfew.
This has, as expected, sparked considerable debate.
I have said it before and will say it again: There are currently no plans to introduce a curfew.
It is also not a given that we will actually submit such a bill to the Storting.
However, it is important that we are prepared, and we are currently reviewing tools that we see can be used to counter the pandemic.
Therefore, we have launched a consultation process regarding this proposal, which has a three-week consultation period.
With that said, I give the floor to ...