Coronavirus puts Norway “on hold”
As their country shuts down, Norwegians are spending time in nature
You can’t sit inside watching television. It will only frighten you,”, says Torill Marie Solstad. The people of the small town of Voss are gardening, skiing, and spending time in nature to make time pass while the society is “on hold” due to coronavirus.
On March 12, Norwegian authorities took drastic measurements to stop the novel coronavirus COVID-19 from spreading. All schools and kindergartens are closed, several airports are closed and now discussion is up about closing the borders. Most cultural events are canceled or postponed, and a large part of the population is working from home. Mass layoffs are anticipated.
About time to act
“It’s about time, I think,” says Aslaug Mørkve. She and her partner Nils Øvsthus are spending the day cutting down trees near their farm in Øvsthus near Skulestadmoen in Voss. Aslaug thinks Norway hasn’t been quick enough to respond to the corona crisis, especially compared to other countries like Denmark. Neither of the couple have yet been laid off from their jobs, but they are both think it’s not unlikely if the shutdown continues.
“Let’s just hope it will be over soon,” says Nils. “In the meantime we can do something useful.”
From their farm, we can see directly across the valley to the large ski resort, Voss resort, and its many cabins. Voss municipality is asking cabin owners not to spend their weekends at their cabins, but to stay at home. With a small population of around 15,000, the health care system in Voss is not equipped to take care of several thousand extra people. However, a lot of people haven’t paid attention to this message.
Empty ski lifts
The ski lifts are still and empty. At the bottom of the slopes, a few small groups of families have gathered to toboggan or ski. Since the ski lifts are not running, the Fondal-Jakobsen family from the nearby town of Dale have swapped their slalom skis with cross-country ones instead. Obviously not used to putting them on, father Glenn is struggling to fasten his ski. And just a few minutes later, he loses it.
“Hehe, this is not what we are used to,” he says.
Both he and his partner Lise are convinced that the authorities in Norway are doing the right thing. Lise works in health care system in Bergen. They are now at their cabin in Voss, but as they say, being from Dale they use the same walk-in emergency clinic as Voss, and if they were to get sick, they would in any case have been sent here. Daughter Frida is doing her best to go uphill with her skis, but the slopes are icy and difficult. Her sister Linnea is 10 years old today and should have been celebrating her birthday—but now the party’s canceled.
“I think it’s sad,” she says. But she knows it will most likely take place at a later time.
Another parent in the slopes today is Torbjørn from Bergen. He is sitting on a small sledge and catching great speed downhill.
“We have to keep ourselves active somehow,” he says with a big smile. He prefers not to have his last name printed. He just got a message from the municipality asking cabin owners to return to their homes.
“We live in a trailer, so we were not thinking about it like that at first. But now that we got the message, we will most likely return today, after some more tobogganing.”
At the supermarket, there are not so many customer this Saturday. In bigger cities, there have been incidents of hoarding. Yeast, flour, and, most importantly, toilet paper, have been emptied from the shelves. In this store, there is plenty of toilet paper left, and Anita Opheim Lydvo picks up a package.
“I’m only taking the one!” she says, laughing. Her 16-year-oldson Ole Kristian Lydvo has just had his first day of instruction outside of the classroom. His school has three hours of digital instruction each day.
“It’s okay, but I’m guessing in the long run it could become boring,” he says.
Theresa Wallevik works as a librarian, and although the libraries are closed for public access, she still goes to work. However, she finds it hard to concentrate when not working. The news coverage about the virus is massive.
“It’s a bit of an overload. But it helps mentally to be outside in nature. If I didn’t go out, I’d sit nailed to my screen all day looking at frightening news. That’s not healthy.”
She’s not visiting anyone at the moment, and definitely not her grandparents.
“I’m not concerned about my own personal health, but I don’t want to pass this on to anyone. I’m thinking about the large consequences this could have for someone else’s health. I’m also concerned about people who run small businesses, who will suffer deeply financially.
In her garden, Torill Marie Solstad is busy raking away old leaves and preparing for spring. She says she can’t sit inside watching the news.
“It only scares me. In the beginning, we were just watching the news all the time. But it is a lot more useful to do something physical. And now that we can’t socialize much, gardening is a perfect activity, she says.
She wears gloves to the supermarket and is more careful washing fruit and other food. In her opinion, the strict actions taken by the authorities is the only right thing to do.
“We can’t be careful enough. I am worried that we might get ill, especially my mother who’s nearly 90 years old. My mother-in-law lives in a nursing home, and we are not allowed to visit her anymore.
Norway has also banned all international travelling, and urged people not to travel unless it’s extremely important.
“It’s not necessary to go on a holiday. We have lived totally free; we could go wherever we wanted all our lives. We can definitely endure a little period of no traveling,” says Torill Marie.
All photos by Ingerid Jordal.