Teachers in Norway frustrated by change to Covid self-isolation rules

Exemptions to coronavirus self-isolation rules will apply to employees in schools and kindergartens in Norway from the new year, but education staff have raised concerns over the decision.

Pictured is a classroom.
The new rules have been received poorly by teachers. Pictured are kids in a classroom. Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Teachers have expressed their frustration at a new self-isolation rule that exempts them from isolating during work hours but not in their free time.

The rule exempts teachers and kindergarten staff from isolating when identified as a close contact of somebody who tests positive for Covid-19, but only when at work. Outside of work, they must still isolate.

The exemption takes effect January 1st 2022 and effectively means school and kindergarten staff can teach and work in education but will have to observe the quarantine rules outside of school hours.

“As I perceive the new rules, it is the case that teachers and kindergarten employees are exempted from quarantine during working hours, but that they must be quarantined in their free time. It is unreasonable and illogical,” Hege Valås, head of the Education Association, told newspaper VG.

Being exempt from quarantine during work hours is typically referred to as “leisure quarantine”. The new exemption will apply to education employees who are close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

READ MORE: What are the current rules for Covid-19 self-isolation in Norway?

Typically, close contacts are in full quarantine for three days before taking a test and are in leisure quarantine until day seven.

Valås said that teachers being exempt from the rules and being around dozens of students but unable to pick up their own kids from school was a “logical shortcoming”.

“We support the government in keeping kindergartens and schools open. It is important for the children, but we have been at the forefront of the pandemic and risked becoming infected. Before Christmas, it was children and young people who had the highest infection rates and there is no reason to believe that will change throughout the spring,” Velås said.

The Education Association head did, however, praise the government for prioritising teachers for testing and booster doses.

The new rules have also received a lukewarm reception from the National Association of Schools, which said it would rather see schools operate at the so-called red level than teachers being exempted from the quarantine rules. Red level measures at schools implement smaller class sizes or cohorts and partial online schooling.

“The provision means that they send all employees in schools and kindergartens out where there is a lot of infection, without infection control equipment,” Mette Johnsen Walker from the national association told news wire NTB.

“The government should run schools at red level until they get control of the infection situation, at least until enough personnel receive a booster dose,” Walker said.

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Norway scraps Covid-19 self-isolation recommendation

The advice to isolate for four days after testing positive for coronavirus in Norway has been axed, the government announced Tuesday.

Norway scraps Covid-19 self-isolation recommendation

Those who test positive for Covid-19 in Norway will no longer be asked to isolate themselves for four days after, Norway’s health minister announced in parliament on Tuesday.

“The specific advice to stay at home for four days after being infected with Covid-19 has been revoked,” Ingvild Kjerkol, Minister of Health, said.

Kjerkol also announced that responsibility for official public health advice relating to the pandemic would be delegated to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Despite the advice being pulled with immediate effect, the health minister added that the pandemic was not over.

“The pandemic is by no means over. There is great uncertainty about the erasure of infection, which virus variants we can encounter and when a new variant can occur. Therefore, there is still a need for good monitoring and preparedness to detect, assess, and handle an unfortunate development early,” Kjerkol said.

She said that the country would learn to live with the virus moving forward.

“Now we will learn to live with coronavirus in society,” she said.

The government said that it would be asking local authorities to retain Covid testing capacity, so they would be able to test at least one percent of the population should a future breakout occur.