Covid-19 featured heavily on the agenda in Jonas Gahr Støre’s first New Year’s speech as Norway’s Prime Minister, with the Labour Party leader also lamenting inequality caused by the pandemic.
“The corona times have made our society more unfair,” Støre said in the annual New Year’s Day speech given to the nation by the country’s sitting PM.
“Some have saved money, had a cabin office, extra quality time with the family. Others have lost their jobs and income and are now experiencing a new tough winter,” he added.
Støre pledged to combat said inequality through taxation, improving the welfare state and reinforcing workers rights.
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In the speech, centred heavily around the impact of Covid, Støre also praised the public for their efforts throughout the pandemic.
“We have fought against coronavirus by standing together and following advice, even the most intrusive measures. We have fought against coronavirus with the best and strongest (weapons) we have; community and unity,” he said.
The PM also said that Norway’s issues, not just the pandemic, couldn’t be tackled without a collective effort.
“The climate crisis cannot be solved by individuals or the market alone. Elderly care isn’t improved by a few people buying themselves better care, and no one is safe in a pandemic until everyone is safe,” Støre said.
He summed up the previous year by confessing that he and many others had hoped that 2021 would see the end.
In addition to urging the public to be better at listening to and emphasising with one another, Støre also said the pandemic has highlighted how the country’s healthcare system needed to be strengthened by training more health care professionals.
“I think everyone has seen the value of a strong health service. The pandemic has also revealed weaknesses in our health service,” Støre said.
He also appealed to members of the public yet to receive a Covid-19 vaccine to get jabbed.
“Make it a New Year’s resolution, take the vaccine,” he urged.
The address was well-received by experts, with one comparing the PM’s rhetoric to a Volvo.
“If the speech were a car, it’d be a Volvo. It was safe, had a suitable structure and was suitably well designed. It used balanced linguistic tools, and it was not loud, but adapted to the situation,” Kjell Terje Ringdal, associate professor at Kristiana University College, said to newspaper VG of the PM’s speech.
On New Year’s Eve, King Harald also addressed the nation in a speech. The King thanked the health service for their efforts throughout the pandemic, and similar to the PM, asked the public to show one another empathy heading into the New Year.
King Harald also expressed his sadness that the most disadvantaged had been hit hardest by the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the most disadvantaged have been particularly hard hit: drug addicts, the mentally ill, the elderly, children and young people,” King Harald said during the New Year’s Eve speech.