Foreigners in Norway uneasy at ‘too early’ reopening

Foreigners in Norway uneasy at 'too early' reopening
Children at a kindergarten in Norway. Photo: Norwegian Ministry of Education
Many foreigners living in Norway seem uncomfortable at the government's decision to open kindergartens from April 20 and schools the week afterwards.
We contacted foreigners on the Expats in Oslo and Norway Expats Facebook pages, and also through a form posted on The Local — you can scroll to the bottom to respond yourself — to ask how they felt about Denmark's decision to start lifting some of its restrictions. 
 
Worried responses far outnumbered those from foreigners who supported the decision. 
 
Many feared the the decision had come too soon, and risked causing the virus to start spreading rapidly again, infecting both their children, and others in society.
 
“Way too soon!! And dangerous!!” exclaimed Karen Frelinghuysen. “Could very well create a second wave!! Unheard of compared to what other countries are doing!! Social distancing works. They are putting their citizens in danger!!!” 
 
 
“Personally, I think it's too damn soon!” agreed Bethany Johannessen. “I think the government is more concerned about them losing money and bitchy parents who want their kids back in sports.
 
“A lot of people here don't even understand the term social distancing. I have seen plenty of kids out playing with friends and not caring about the rules in place..and government expects these kids to just behave in school when they can't even do it in public?! It will backfire and then we will all have do this for even longer.” 
 
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“It makes no sense to me,” said Amy Anselmi Casey. “It's working and we have it under control, so let's stop doing what works and change things', yet they expect it to continue to improve. Not smart in my opinion, and I will not send my kids back.” 

 

“Can they confirm the risk has been eliminated? Is the threat eradicated? Has the virus been contained or do have plausible statistics which indicate so? If not, then it is questionable and precipitate decision,” said Arfo Rafaa, from Syria. 
“It was then who told us to hide. Now they are saying 'get out' without saying ‘it is clear outside’.” 
 
 
Teachers particularly worried
 
Teachers and kindergarten teachers with a foreign background were worried that they might end up being infected. 
 

“I am worried about my safety as a teacher,” said Matt Goodheart. “I am 62 years old and a high school teacher and worried I will get CV19 when I return to school.” 
 
“I am a single mother of a kindergarten age child. I also am a class 4 teacher, so I have to go back to work surrounded by other kids and adults, put my kid in kindergarten surrounded by other kids and adults and just hope nothing happens?” protested one teacher, who preferred not to be named.
 
“What happens if I get ill? It just takes one person not following the rules properly to either come in contact with my son or me and 'bang', we can get sick. Where is my choice? They said they listened to the teachers but I don’t think they listened hard enough!” 
 
Daisy, a kindergarten teacher in Trondheim, said she was looking forward to getting back to work, but feared it would be difficult to avoid spreading the virus. 
 
“I am insecure about the safety of children and the staff in the workplace,” she said. “There will surely be no social distancing among children and adults in kindergartens. It is a known fact that young children, no matter how much we remind them, will cough and sneeze right on your face!” 
 
Santa, a piercing artist, said that although she supported schools reopening, she felt it was wrong to allow businesses like her own to resume. 
 
“For younger age kids from three to six years' old, it is important to socialise no less than it is to have a close relationship to their parents,” she said. “However, since they can get sick or have no symptoms, kids can bring virus back at home. It is very delicate topic especially for single parents.” 
 
“All types of eateries can provide decent 1-1,5m distance between costumers, but this is not possible for  physiotherapists, hairdressers, tattoo and piercing artists, and nail care — they should be still closed down,” she said. 
 
Calls for more testing
 

Many felt that the government should first have expanded coronavirus testing to get a better idea of who widely the virus had spread within the population. 
 
“I would have preferred if massive systematic testing, tracking and isolation were already in place before loosening any of the current restrictions,” said Camila Esguerra. 
 
“If you only test people going to the hospital with it, it’s unclear to what extent it has infected people throughout the community,” said Amy Schumacher Rutherford. “South Korea flattened its curve through extensive testing, and even Johnson county in Kansas (close to where I lived before Stavanger) is going to start randomised testing to help map the spread.” 
 
 
Does it send the wrong signal? 
 
Others worried that the reopening would send the wrong signal to the population, causing them to stop social distancing and washing their hands. 
 
“Relaxing strictness now may inadvertently also signal to the public of a relaxation overall,” said Ruby Norge Jaeger. ” People will not keep up with social distancing and other measures, thus creating a new spike on the curve… more infections, more deaths.” 
 
But some foreigners support the decision 
 
A minority of respondents supported Norway's decision, pointing to research indicating that school closures were anyway not that effective in slowing the spread of the disease. 
 
“I have a son in kindergarten and another in school. I feel that Norwegian government is taking decisions based on data and risk analysis,” said Talha Gökmen. “I will feel OK if they decide to open them soon.” 
 
“I think they are managing it well enough at the moment and they seem to believe they have things under control,” 
said Hans Eksteen. “There needs to be some sort of balance between capacity in hospitals and how much freedom one can enjoy and how many people you want infected to prevent bigger problems later.” 
 
“I'm fine with it,” agreed Deanna Marie Spitzer.  A new study [from University College London] suggests that closing the schools really has a limited effect on reducing the spread of Covid-19.” 
 
While it is hard to see how Norway or any other country could keep schools closed month after month, the disquiet among foreigners in the country shows how public opinion is likely to react should the opening be followed by a significant rise in hospitalisations or deaths. 
 
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