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Source: Government of Norway

Message from the Minister of Health and Care Services,

Good afternoon everybody,

This autumn, infection rates in Norway climbed.
The virus spread quickly and we saw outbreaks in every county in the country. As a result, we introduced multiple nationwide measures.
We are now seeing our measures begin to take effect.
Although infection rates remain too high, they have levelled out.
The same applies to the rate of hospital admissions.

In a few weeks’ time we will be entering a new year.
I hope that we can start the new year with optimism and low infection rates. However, several of our neighbours including Denmark, Sweden and Finland are now seeing negative trends.
We must be ready for the same to happen here.
The fact that we may enter the new year with higher infection rates.

The situation remains unstable and can change quickly.
This Christmas, there will be many people travelling from one municipality to another. Some people will be returning home from abroad,
while others will be celebrating Christmas in their home countries before returning to Norway after the holidays. Many people will be gathering in social settings.

This will increase the case load of Covid patients.
And it will increase the risk of a new, third wave of infection.
This is why we are bolstering our measures to ensure enhanced compliance with the quarantine regulations after Christmas.
As a result, we will be retaining our national measures until the second half of January. At that point, we will conduct a new assessment.

I have recently heard stories about people who have been avoiding taking tests as they want to avoid celebrating Christmas in quarantine.
I have heard about employers spoofing plane tickets to work around quarantine regulations. And I have heard about people in quarantine who are being urged to attend work by their bosses.
The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority has already increased its inspection activities and is cracking down on these types of actions.

We must all follow the national guidelines in order to avoid another increase in infections. In the coming weeks, everyone should stay at home as much as possible and limit their social contacts.
If you are visiting people in risk categories, you should ensure you maintain plenty of distance from them. If you have been in an area of Norway with high rates of infection in the last 10 days, you should also ensure you maintain an extra distance from others. You can also reduce the risk of infection by not participating in social gatherings during the final 10 days prior to travel.

The quarantine scheme is one of the most important measures we have to fight the pandemic. The main rule in Norway is a 10 days quarantine for those entering the country or who test positive for the infection.
We are constantly acquiring new knowledge about the infection and the virus. We are gaining fresh experience from other countries and we are finding new testing methods. A short while ago, I therefore tasked the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health with conducting a comprehensive assessment of our testing strategy and quarantine scheme.

They have now delivered their provisional responses. Both agree that a negative test on day seven during quarantine will not achieve the same level of protection offered in terms of infection prevention as a quarantine period lasting ten days. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health also believes that a negative test taken no more than 72 hours after arrival ought to generally result in an exemption from work-related quarantine – provided that suitable arrangements are in place.

On the other hand, the Norwegian Directorate of Health believes that we should not amend the quarantine scheme at this time. They make reference to, amongst other things, considerations in terms of testing capacity and bolstered arrival systems which mean that changes should be deferred until at the earliest the Christmas holidays.

I share this assessment. We are now entering a festive period during which we must carefully plan capacity. Several municipalities have been subject to ongoing pressure in terms of their workload and there is wear and tear to personnel and resources. In the coming time, municipalities will also be tasked with preparing vaccination programmes for the population.
We cannot simultaneously burden them with even greater changes to the testing and quarantine regulations. This is why we are granting the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health more time to consider these essential issues.
In addition, I will now be sending the provisional response to relevant employers and employee organisations and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) for their input.

In a few weeks’ time we will be entering a new year.
There are vaccines on the way. There is no automatic guarantee that what happens in neighbouring countries will also happen here. If we all follow the guidelines, I hope that we can start 2021 with optimism and low infection rates.

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