I am writing in regards to the current regulations about quarantine hotels. I am in support of the Norwegian government implementing measures to lower the rate of infection in Norway but I am not in support with the current regulations and implementation of quarantine hotels. Before the November 6th announcement, I fell under the boyfriend/girlfriend exemption that would allow me to travel to visit my boyfriend. I was planning on traveling November 20-30 in which I would quarantine with my Norwegian boyfriend who rents his apartment and was going to quarantine with me and not go to work or any public place where social distancing was difficult. With the new hotel quarantine regulations, I was going to spend my entire trip in hotel quarantine since I have very limited vacation time to spend 10 days in quarantine and additional days with my boyfriend. I haven't seen my boyfriend since the start of the pandemic.
According to the FHI report, 80% of coronavirus infections comes from community spread while 20% is from import infection, most notably from Eastern European workers, which is highlighted in the report. In the days after the government implemented hotel quarantine requirements, they released exemptions for certain groups such as foreign workers whose employer can provide a suitable place of residence as well as Norwegian students who are studying abroad and have a suitable place of residence to fulfil their 10 at home quarantine. Anyone else who falls outside these exemptions must quarantine in a hotel. My question is if the 20% of infections are coming from import foreign workers, why do they have exemption from the quarantine hotels and the government trusts employers to provide a suitable place of residence? Yet boyfriend/girlfriends, grandparents, non Norwegian spouses and Norwegian residents who rent and do not own their home must be subjected to 10 hotel quarantine even though they have been shown to not be the spreaders of import contamination?
On November 18th, Monica Maeland wrote on her Facebook that the quarantine hotels are working and detracting people from visiting Norway. Under EU law, Norway must maintain open borders with other European countries. It appears from this statement that quarantine hotels have been implemented to detract people from coming to Norway rather than stop the spread of the virus seeing that you are allowing the main carriers of import infection, foreign workers to quarantine in a place provided by their employers. I understand hotel quarantine to detract leisure holiday travelers from coming to Norway during a pandemic but why can’t the government trust boyfriend/girlfriends, grandparents, non-Norwegian spouses and Norwegian residents who rent from providing a suitable place to home quarantine? Prior to the November 6 directive, the UDI forms that we had to fill out included documentation from our partners that they could provide a suitable place to home quarantine. The government argued that it was difficult to track where this group was performing home quarantining, yet border patrol had documentation where this group would home quarantine just as they have documentation where foreign workers and students will home quarantine. The argument is that family members don’t have to quarantine, why not require family members to home quarantine if they are expecting their boyfriend/girlfriends, grandparents, non-Norwegian spouses and Norwegian residents who rent to stay with them during the required 10 day quarantine?
It appeared that the government hastily implemented these requirements, putting much of the implementation on municipalities and hotels to sort out the logistics of hotel quarantine and not having clear rules, health and safety measures and regulations in place. The biggest concern is the health and safety measures that are not being followed in these designated quarantine hotels. These hotels do not have a strategy to ensure the safety and well-being of its guests during the time of a pandemic as they have shown to:
1. No room cleaning will be performed during a person’s 10 day quarantine
2. Communal coffee and toiletry tables in the hallways that encourage people to congregate in the hallways
3. The standard hotel mechanical systems are not equipped to filter out the coronavirus particles allowing contamination through the ducts from one hotel room to the next. The air filtration system on an airplane is more equipped to handle particle filtration than hotels.
4. Hotel staff take guests passports on arrival
5. There are no phones, refrigerators or kettles in the rooms therefor promoting people mixing in the hallways
6. Guests are expected to bring all necessary supplies with them to “survive” for 10 days. For example, hot plate, baby food, baby supplies, dish soap to wash dishes, laundry detergent, mugs, kettles, etc.
7. Miscommunication between hotel staff and government. Hotel staff see guests in isolation while the government views it as quarantine. Therefore, if it is quarantine, walks, trips to the supermarket and pharmacy are permitted.
This group of boyfriend/girlfriends, grandparents, spouses and Norwegian nationals who rent is not looking to remove the 10-quarantine requirement, all that we are asking is that the place that the quarantine take place is fair for every group and the government does not prioritize one group over another. Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate between renters and owners, foreign workers or nationals, Norwegians vs non-Norwegians yet the government has demonstrated through their current hotel quarantine regulations and exemptions that Covid-19 does discriminate based on socio-economical class. Therefore, I am asking that the government and the health ministry work together to come up with a quarantine solution that is equitable for all. As governments around the world attempt to find solutions to combat the spread of Covid within their countries, they are turning a blind eye to the next pandemic – the mental health crisis. Humans are social beings who need to be around their loved ones during a time of crisis and uncertainty. Because my loved ones don’t share the same passport that I do, we have been separated from seeing each other since March. I want to end the pandemic just as much as nations around the world but I also want governments to show empathy and compassion to their fellow human beings who are struggling.
Below are my suggestions for quarantine hotel implementation.
1. Everyone who enters Norway must perform 10 hotel quarantine. No exemptions will be made to students, foreign works, Norwegians and non-Norwegians.
2. Allow 10 day home quarantine to the exempted groups such as (foreign workers, students, boyfriend/girlfriends, grandparents, spouses, Norwegian residents who rent their homes). All other groups such as European tourists on holiday must hotel quarantine
a. Home quarantine rules applies to all family members that the visiting person is staying with
b. Police will have documentation where people in home quarantine are staying and can make house calls and visits to ensure quarantine is being performed
c. People in home quarantine must download a tracking app
d. People must pay a deposit to the government and will receive it back at the end of their home quarantine if they do not break rules
3. Everyone travels with a negative covid test and will hotel quarantine for 3-5 days upon arrival. They will be tested again 3-5 days after arrival and if they have a negative covid test, they can continue their quarantine requirements at home.
As seen on the NRK debate, the government hastily implemented hotel quarantine requirements with little thought on its implementation and concern for the health and safety of people. I am asking that the government uses equity and empathy when considering the new measures for hotel quarantine. It’s hard to watch the government justify that an employer can provide a suitable place of residence for its foreign worker yet the government cannot trust that a family member can provide the same. Over the last few weeks, it has been reported that foreign workers have been caught violating their required home quarantine. Instead of prioritizing economy and political gain, please prioritize the needs of your citizens who placed you in power to protect their health and wellbeing. It appears that the government is wanting to bolster their economy by capitalizing on the mental health of a group of people who are willing to pay the 5000kr because they are so desperate to see their loved ones. Unless you tackle community spread, implementing strict entry requirements will have little effect on stopping covid in Norway. You must first tackle the biggest spread – Covid that is already in Norway.