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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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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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