Solberg responds to coronavirus

“We cannot place all of Norway in quarantine”

Solberg - coronavirus

Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix
Prime Minister Erna Solberg responds to questions in a session at the Norwegian parliament. Currently unprecedented measures are being put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Translated by ANDY MEYER

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she understands that recommendations around the coronavirus can be confusing. But actions must be appropriate to the phase we are in, she maintains.

“I understand that it can be confusing. At the same time, we cannot place all of Norway in quarantine,” Solberg said when she met with Stortinget for a questioning hour March 11.

While there, she was challenged by the Progress Party’s deputy leader, Sylvi Listhaug, who demanded more consistent information and more direction about the spread of the coronavirus in Norway.

“Out there, I just have to say, I think many are both confused and worried,” said Listhaug.

New phase

Solberg referred to the fact that the debate about the coronavirus is pervaded by a diversity of voices. At the same time, the infection has now entered a new phase, where the virus has begun to spread in the population without a known source in every case.

“Then there will be a need for stronger action,” Solberg emphasized. “It can easily be thought that it has been a little poorly communicated that we are entering a situation where we have to escalate,” she said.

But too severe actions—for example, placing many in quarantine—could also have affected important social functions, such as care for the elderly and health services in smaller municipalities, she warned.

According to Solberg, the level of action was chosen from probability models and the contamination picture we currently have.

Jonas Gahr Støre critical

In the questioning session in Stortinget, the prime minister was also bombarded with questions by Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre. “Will the municipalities get resources, economic support, and instructions that ensure treatment? Do we have the necessary equipment and medicine? And are we as a nation equipped to remain in a crisis that could last a long time? My fear is that the answers to these questions are not an unambiguous ‘yes,’” said the opposition leader.

According to Støre, medical personnel, mayors, and other professionals have all raised criticisms.

“The actions have come too late, they have not been concrete enough, and the information has come through unclearly and with little coordination,” said Støre.

Halting the spread

Solberg referred in her answer to the fact that Norway is in a serious situation, both when it comes to health preparedness and potential economic consequences. But job No. 1, she insisted, is to halt the spread of the virus, so that the health system doesn’t get overloaded.

“We have to understand that the curve will reach greater heights. And that as this develops we will reach a peak,” Solberg said. “We have to make sure that we flatten out that peak. That is the most important thing we are doing.”


This article originally appeared in the March 20, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.