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PUNISHMENT

Norwegian prime minister fined for Covid-19 rules breach

Erna Solberg has been fined 20,000 kroner for her role in planning a dinner party at a restaurant in Geilo, southern Norway, in February.

Norwegian prime minister fined for Covid-19 rules breach
Instagram erna_solberg

The South East police district has finished its investigation into the episode and concluded that there was a breach of national infection control rules.

The Prime Minister broke infection control measures when 13 family members were gathered at the restaurant in Geilo, a popular skiing destination. At the time, only 10 people could gather in such settings.

“I take note of the police decision. I have previously said that if the restaurant visit is followed up with fines, then we will of course make up for it. I apologise for what happened and will pay the fine,” Solberg said in a statement .

Despite not being present at the meal, due to having an eye checkup in Oslo, Solberg is considered to be one of the event’s organisers as she participated in the decision to host the dinner and was involved in choosing a restaurant.

Despite police saying his role would also fall under that of an organiser, the prime minister’s husband, Sindre Finnes, will not be fined.

“The practical arrangements were made by Solberg’s husband, but Solberg was involved in the decision to eat out,” police chief Ole B. Sæverud said at a press conference.

The police said that such a case would not normally lead to punishment, unless special considerations dictate it.

They believe that this case meets the special considerations criteria as finding Solberg guilty without any punishment could have a negative impact on the population’s compliance with coronavirus restrictions.

“Even though the law is equal for everyone, not everyone is equal. Solberg is the country’s foremost elected official and has on a number of occasions fronted the government’s decisions on measures to counter the pandemic. It is therefore considered appropriate to react with punishment, in order to maintain the public’s trust in the infection control rules,” Sæverud said.

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The restaurant Solberg’s family ate at, Hallingstuene, will not receive a fine.

“If we had come across the incident while it was taking place, we would have clarified the regulations and, if necessary, given orders to end the event. A punitive response would only be considered if the event was carried out in a clearly contagious manner, or there was a case of repeated violation,” said Sæverud.

The prime minister’s family met twice over a weekend in late February as part of her 60th birthday celebrations in Geilo. On the Saturday there were more than 10 people present at an apartment they had rented. However, as the regulations were unclear at the time police said that this was not a criminal violation.

Solberg apologised for the breach when it was first reported in March.

“I, who every single day stand and speak about infection control to the Norwegian people, should have known the rules better. But the truth is that I have not checked the rules well enough, and thus not realiisd that when a family goes out together and there are more than ten persons, it is actually an event,” she said at the time.  

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COVID-19 RULES

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”. 

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