Policy responses for Norway - HSRM

Norway


Policy responses for Norway

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

Border and area restrictions
Travel abroad is not encouraged, but is not banned. Any changes to travel advice will depend amongst other on the risk situation in the countries and reopening to travel will be gradual. Reopening for business travel between the Nordic countries started 1 June. Current rules for quarantine have been replaced with testing and/or quarantine. Experience from this pilot will inform whether or not Norway will be opened for Nordic tourists (which is to be announced on 15 June) and some other European countries (20 July). On 25 June, it has been announced that reopening of borders with Europe will take place from 15 July and will be guided by the infection rates and measures taken in various countries. For more information see Section Transition measures: isolation and quarantine.

The ban on overnight stay at holiday properties/second homes in Norway was lifted on 20 April (https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/goods_traffic/id2693654/; see also Section 1.2).

Immigration visas may be granted (also from 20 April), but permission to entry the country may be deferred until further notice. Exemptions from border rejections are stipulated in the Regulations relating to rejection of foreign nationals on the grounds of concerns over public health (https://lovdata.no/dokument/SFE/forskrift/2020-03-15-293).

12 May: Border restrictions were updated. Border rejection will henceforth not apply to the following groups without residence permit:
a) EEA nationals who reside in Norway;
b) Family members of EEA nationals (section 110, paragraphs 3 and 5, of the Immigration Act) when such a family member resides or is to reside in Norway;
c) EEA nationals who are employed and who have entered into or are to enter into a work relationship in Norway (see section 112, paragraph 1(a), of the Immigration Act);
d) Self-employed EEA nationals who have established or are to establish business activity in Norway (see section 112, paragraph 1(a), of the Immigration Act);
e) Service providers from an EEA country that are covered by section 110, paragraph 4, or section 112, paragraph 1(b), of the Immigration Act (independent contractors and posted workers) who have begun or are to begin a work assignment in Norway;
f) EEA nationals who are family members of a Norwegian national, with family ties as specified in b) above;
g) EEA nationals who are to visit a minor child, spouse or cohabitant, or a spouse's or cohabitant's minor child in Norway, as well as minor EEA nationals who are to visit a parent in Norway;
h) EEA nationals who own real estate property in Norway, including a holiday residence, and who are to visit it.
The stipulations of the regulations concerning EEA nationals also apply to Swiss nationals.

Exemptions are also granted for foreign nationals who need to travel through mainland Norway in order to get to/from Svalbard, or need to travel through Norway to get home, or who perform commercial transport of goods and passengers for payment. Exemptions are also made for holders of diplomatic or service passports as well as for military personnel and their families, and for other groups. The full list is available at: https://lovdata.no/dokument/SFE/forskrift/2020-03-15-293.

Norway and Denmark have agreed to reopen their borders to allow travel between the two countries from 15 June. This means that quarantine on arrival and entry restrictions no longer apply, and Denmark is excepted from the advice against non-essential travel to all countries issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The easing of travel restrictions is guided by the level of infection and this will guide recommendations for travel to other Nordic countries. Anyone arriving in Denmark must have booked accommodation at least six nights before arrival. The exception is Copenhagen, where overnight stay is not allowed as it is currently considered to have a high infection rate. The borders with Finland, Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard also reopened on 15 June.

From 12 June Svalbard has been opened for cruise traffic, as long as the cruise ships adhere to specific infection control guidelines.

The common criteria for allowing Nordic travel is based on six conditions:
Quantitative measures:
1. Incidence of new cases must be less than 20 per 100 000 residents per week in two consecutive weeks.
2. Number of patients in ICUs the previous 14 days (< 0.5/100 000).
3. The share of positive tests should be less than 5% over the previous 14 days.

Qualitative measures:
1. Advice on testing must ensure that all suspected cases are tested.
2. Contact tracing systems must be in place.
3. Information material for travellers must be available.

A map of areas that fulfil these criteria is published by the NIPH and will be updated every 14 days.

From 22 June, the COVID-19 regulations allow for an employer or contractor to organise testing and infection control measures as an alternative to quarantine for people who arrive to work in Norway from Schengen or EEA countries. Two tests are required upon arrival in Norway, with a minimum gap of 48 hours. The second test can be taken on day 5 after arrival in Norway, at the earliest. The person remains in quarantine until the first negative test result is available. The person then remains in quarantine during their leisure time until the second negative test result is available.  If the employer or contractor chooses this solution, they are responsible for arranging and paying for the tests.  If this is not feasible, the quarantine requirement (10 days of quarantine upon arrival in Norway) applies.

For information on testing requirements for medical personnel arriving from Sweden see Section Transition measures: workforce.

On 25 June the government announced changes to the travel advice for Europe and will gradually reopen the borders from 15 July. The easing of travel restrictions will be guided by the risk of infections in the respective countries, according to the quantitative and qualitative criteria listed above.
The NIPH published the first list of countries which may be travelled to and from on 10 July. The list will be updated every 14 days. Travelers to and from these countries are generally exempted from testing and quarantine. The Government decide on the travel advice, and updated travel advice will apply on the day after the updated decision at the earliest.

On 24 September, existing global travel advice has been prolonged from 1 October to 1 January 2021. The government upheld the advice against all travels to any country outside the EU/EEA area which are not considered strictly necessary.

On 21 October, restriction for selected visitors living outside the EU-Schengen area have been eased: close relatives to Norwegian citizens or EU/EEA citizens residing in Norway have been allowed to enter Norway to visit their family. Documentation of relationship is a prerequisite and normal rules of quarantine apply.

Economy
On 27 May the second report on the evaluation of and recommendations for pandemic measures was presented by the Holden-commission. Recommendation distinguished between measures aimed at keeping the infection rate at low levels, and measures to be taken when infection rates are increasing.
The commission set high hygiene standards and measures for early detection and isolation of COVID-19 patients, including contact tracing as the most effective measures. Quarantine might be considered and a moderate degree of physical distancing should be maintained. It is recommended that sick leave should be accepted for mild symptoms. Phasing out of measures implemented in response to the pandemic should be prioritized taking into account their effectiveness in terms of controlling the infection (so the least effective measures can be phased out first) and then their cost. Phasing out of school closures was thus among the first recommendations. It is further recommended to maintain a certain degree of physical distancing, but this should be tailored to various sectors.

Measures proposed for the scenario when infection rates increase distinguish between three levels: individual, local and national level. The cost of testing, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine is effective at the individual level. Local measures should target physical distancing, be evidence-based and in line with local preparedness plans and supported by governmental agencies and national guidelines. National measures should only be considered when local measures are no longer sufficient. Closure of schools and childcare facilities are not considered as an effective measure and is thus not recommended. Stricter measures than previously taken such as curfew might be considered at local levels if the infection rate increases rapidly. Increased testing of health personnel working with people with significantly elevated risk is a possible option as is introduction of specific opening hours in stores for various risk groups. Municipalities and institutions must ensure they have preparedness plans in place and this may be subject to inspection and audit. (https://www.helsedirektoratet.no/rapporter/samfunnsokonomisk-vurdering-av-smitteverntiltak-covid-19).

On 29 May the strategy and measures within the economic sector to facilitate recovery situation have been updated. This targets, among others, re-employment; spreading the economic risk and increasing economic stability; ensuring a green future; implementing the Educational shift (extension of Competence-Shift); improving integration of immigrants. Some measures have been altered or phased out, others have been extended and some new measures and support have been introduced (https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/norges-vei-ut-av-krisen/id2704437/):

• Some enterprises in Norway have been eligible to receive subsidies as compensation for the drop of revenues due to the pandemic. From March through April the subsidies amounted to up to 80% of revenue loss (up to 90% if the closure was due to a Government decision). The compensation scheme is prolonged for three more months, but the compensation rate is set to be reduced to 70% in June and July and 50% in August. 
• The Government will provide financial support to businesses and organizations to ensure re-employment of people who have been temporary laid-off (furloughed) due to the pandemic. Support will be available under certain conditions: the employees must have been registered as laid-off before the announcement of the support measures (28 May), be reinstated in a position by early July or August, and the business may not lay-off any employees during this period.
• In Norway, employers are required to pay for parental sick leave (to care for a sick child) for up to 10 days a year. In order to reduce the economic burden on employers, during the pandemic the National Insurance Scheme took over the funding of parental sick leave from day 3 of leave. The number of sick leave days will be reset on 1 July, so that each parent is entitled to 20 days of leave in total in 2020. Employers will be responsible for financing of up to 10 days of parental sick leave per employee in 2020 (i.e. as they normally are in any year).
• Funding has been earmarked for a series of measures linked to various existing actions plans, including support to the construction sector (maintenance and upgrading of public buildings with an estimated value of 25 million Euros); measures to support innovation (75 million Euros); environmental measures (0.34 billion Euros); educational measures (including implementation of Competence-shift 2020 and supporting completion of high school and continuing education, with an estimated value of 9 million Euros); measures to improve integration of immigrants (50 million Euros).
• Measures specific to the pandemic include 45 million Euros for securing medical supplies as well as 50 million Euros in increased support to the municipalities, as well as extra funding for aviation, trains and collective transport at the county level.
• Compensation measures for sport and cultural events have been expanded with 17 million Euros of additional funds, bringing the total compensation during the pandemic to close to 35 million Euros. These measures will now cover museums and art collections, which previously were not eligible for compensation as they had over 60% public basic funding.
In August, the Government decided to prolong the period of furlough from 26 to 52 weeks.

On 4 September, the Government decided to ease the economic burden of COVID-19 on the municipalities and now aims to cover the cost of testing, contact-tracing, isolation and quarantine for the municipalities.

The Government provides financial support to businesses and organizations to ensure re-employment of people who have been temporary laid-off (furloughed) due to the pandemic. Support will be available under certain conditions: the employees must have been registered as unemployed before 31 August, and be reinstated at work in October, November or December. The financial support is limited to EUR 1500 per month per reemployed employee, and the business may not lay-off any employees during this period.

On 21 September, the revised national budget was delivered to the Parliament. Among the proposed measures are a proposal to prolong the maximum period for furloughed people from 26 to 52 weeks and to provide financial support to the transport sector.

20 October: The Government has decided to offer some compensation measures for the tourism industry at the end of 2020. The compensation measures are for substantial loss of revenue (more than 40%) from 1 September until 31 December.

Border and area restrictions

Current status
National borders were closed 15 March and foreign nationals who do not live or work in Norway, are not allowed to enter. However, exemptions apply for European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and their family members who reside in Norway and for EEA citizens who work in Norway. Quarantine rules do apply to workers from EEA countries. Borders have been re-opened for travellers in a stepwise manner from 15 June (see Section Measures in other sectors: Transition measures; see also Section Transition measures: workforce for information on testing requirements for medical personnel arriving from Sweden).

Data from Telenor (Cell-phone operator) from 16 March indicate a decrease of 65% in mobility between municipalities (see https://www.fhi.no/contentassets/c9e459cd7cc24991810a0d28d7803bd0/notat-om-risiko-og-respons-2020-04-05.pdf). This was shortly after the ban on overnight stay at holiday properties was introduced on 12 March. Data from 26 April indicate a 34% decrease in mobility between municipalities which was after the ban on overnight stay at holiday properties was lifted on 20 April (see https://www.fhi.no/contentassets/c9e459cd7cc24991810a0d28d7803bd0/notat-om-risiko-og-respons-2020-04-05.pdf).

History of measures taken:
14 March: Quarantine measures are introduced. Persons arriving in Norway from countries other than Sweden or Finland, must undergo quarantine for 14 days after entry into Norway. The Regulations apply to persons who have arrived in Norway after 27 February 2020. Travellers arriving in Norway may choose not to enter the country i.e. return to their starting destination, and not undergo quarantine in Norway (see https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/new-regulations-on-quarantine-etc.-after-travelling-outside-the-nordic-region/id2693598/).

15 March:  To limit the spread of infection by people arriving in Norway from other countries, extensive border controls are introduced with effect from Monday 16 March at 8 a.m. The Government closes the border to foreign nationals who do not have a residence permit in Norway. A temporary hold on visa applications was implemented. Temporary entry and exit controls are introduced at the internal Schengen border. Exemptions will be provided for EEA citizens and their family members who reside in Norway. Exemptions are also being prepared for EEA citizens who work in Norway (and these were put in place on 9 April). The police are instituting temporary entry and exit controls at the inner and outer Schengen border, but no border crossing points are being closed. The Norwegian Home Guard are assisting with border control (https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/stricter-border-controls-being-introduced/id2693624/).

Several municipalities enforced stricter local quarantine regulations despite the Government’s request to follow national regulations i.e. to practice a lock down. The extent of the regulations differs amongst municipalities: in the Northern part of Norway some municipalities require quarantine for everybody visiting from the southern part of Norway, while others require quarantine for all non-residents.

24 March: Border control of the internal Schengen borders is extended. See https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/coronavirus-measures-to-continue/id2694682/

30 March:  Norway opens its borders for seasonal workers from EEA countries in the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors and the food industry in line with a new regulation that allows nationals of EEA countries to enter Norway if they are to work in a sector where there is a critical need for labour. These amendments are vitally important for the agricultural sector (see https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/innreisemuligheter-for-eos-borgere/id2695783/) 

8 April:  Exemptions to the quarantine regulations are implemented whereby parents or guardians who need to cross the border between Norway and another country in order to maintain contact arrangements with children under the age of 18 will not have to follow the ordinary quarantine rules (see https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/norway-to-lift-covid-19-restrictions-gradually-and-cautiously/id2697060/).

12 May: Border restrictions were updated (see Section on Transition measures)

18 May: The Government proposed a temporary legislation on border restrictions on the grounds of public health concerns for foreign nationals. This proposed legislation will be valid until January 1, 2021 and will supersede current restrictions, which were adopted under the Act relating to the control of communicable diseases and limited by the Coronavirus Act, which is valid until 27 May. The hearing for the proposed act is scheduled for 20 May.

15 June: Borders have been opened with Denmark and Finland (see Section Measures in other sectors: Transition measures)

15 July: Borders have been reopened with low incidence regions in the EU/EEA/Schengen area (see Section Measures in other sectors: Transition measures)

Mobility and transport
Travel restrictions for people apply for external as well as internal travel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised against non-essential travel to all countries (since 14 March), with full details on its website. The advice applies until further notice. Travel for recreational purposes within Norway is allowed (not recommended but neither officially advised against). Travel during the upcoming summer holidays within Norway is also allowed (not advised against). 

State assistance to help Norwegian citizens to return to Norway will continue until 1 June. In the week commencing on 18 May, 9 planes are made available to assist people residing in Spain to return to Norway.

Transport of goods, both import and export, carries on as normal by road, trains, ships and aircraft. Airports, ports and border crossings are open for such traffic. 

Economy
The economy has been negatively affected by the measures undertaken in response to the pandemic, as described in the Government’s Financial report to the Parliament on 24 April. Another factor has been the steep decline in the oil price and the resulting sharp depreciation of the Norwegian krone. The Central Bank of Norway (Norges Bank) has reduced the key interest rate twice, which is currently set 0.25 percent. The Bank has also launched comprehensive set of measures to ensure liquidity access for banks and has stated that it is continuously considering the need for intervening in the market by purchasing Norwegian kroner. The Ministry of Finance will be presenting updated assessments of the economic outlook in Norway and internationally in the Revised National Budget in May (https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/meld.-st.-22-20192020/id2699066/).

On 13 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced the first package of economic measures to limit the unavoidable consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total increase in budget outlays from the economic measures are estimated to exceed NKr 65 billion.  Government loan and guarantee schemes were announced for enterprises, initially for firms with less than 250 employees, later extended to all enterprises (in total up to NKr 50 billion).

The second package, announced on 19 March, outlined a financial support scheme that will cover a portion of the fixed cost for companies facing a large turnover decrease related to COVID-19. The scheme is expected to pay out between NKr 10 and 20 billion per month and is initially slated to run for two months. On the 31 March, parliament agreed to a third package of measures. Valued at NKr 9 billion, it includes further support to students, municipalities, the environment and low-income households.

These packages were extended on 3 April to include extension of the guarantee scheme for bank loans to companies with more than 250 employees; granting (temporarily) discretion over whether laid off employees may retain membership in their company’s pension schemes; and granting additional financial support (comparatively small-scale fiscally) for a wide range of groups and sectors (including: students, apprentices, kindergartens, immigrants, brewery industry, fuel industry, horse racing, and reindeer herding).

On 17 April the Business Compensation Scheme was established as part of the government’s third package of measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The scheme is temporary and is in place for three months, from March until May. The Tax Administration is responsible for the scheme on behalf of the Finance Ministry and there is a dedicated online portal through which applications can be submitted. Information on enterprises receiving subsidies is publicly available (https://kompensasjonsordning.no/en/). On 13 May, police forces in Norway have received extra resources to investigate cases suspected of defrauding the Business Compensation Scheme. To date, 6 million Nkr (€ 0.6 million) are in the process of being reclaimed from this Scheme.

The State Educational Loan Fund is offering extra loans and grants to students who have lost their incomes during the pandemic. The Parliament decided to offer extra loans of up to NKr 24,000, whereof NKr 8,000 is a grant for all students who can document loss of income.

Other measures include a temporary cut in employers’ social insurance contribution by 4 percentage points for the equivalent of 2 months. The number of days that employers are obliged to pay salary to furloughed workers, have been reduced from 15 to 2 days. After this, employees are entitled to unemployment benefits. A series of tax measures, including deferral of income tax and VAT payments, has been initiated. The lower VAT rate has been decreased from 12 to 8%. In addition, lossmaking companies may re-allocate their loss towards previous years' taxed surpluses, and owners of lossmaking companies may postpone payments of wealth tax.

A series of sectoral support has been announced:
• For the aviation sector a special guarantee scheme totalling NKr 6 billion has been set up with a 90% government guarantee on each loan. There is also a temporary suspension of the tax on air passenger and aviation charges.
• Support for innovative and research-oriented businesses, including young growth companies, innovation loans, interest-payment support, grants for private innovation groups, business-oriented research support, as well as capital for funding and matching investments.
• Support for a wide range of other sectors, including culture, sport and voluntary sectors; the brewery industry; fuel industry; horseracing and reindeer herding.

Other support includes strengthening support for skills upgrades and in-house training for companies affected by the virus outbreak, through increased grants to the counties.

Sources:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response/public-health_en 
https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/lettere-a-fa-smittevernutstyr-til-norge/id2694834/
https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/additional-financial-measures-to-mitigate-the-economic-effects-of-the-coronavirus-crisis/id2696548/ 
https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/economic-measures-in-norway-in-response-to-covid-19/id2696858/ 
https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/economic-measures-in-norway-in-response-to-covid-19/id2694274/
https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/koronavirus-covid-19/timeline-for-news-from-norwegian-ministries-about-the-coronavirus-disease-covid-19/id2692402/ 

State aid
The largest support to households in terms of government spending involves extending existing unemployment benefits and other income-assurance schemes:
• Employees who are on temporary lay-off (furlough) are to receive full wage compensation from day 1 to day 20, up to NKr 50 000 per month, and thereafter compensation according regulations for a total of 26 weeks.
• A scheme for temporary income compensation for self-employed people, including sickness benefit.
• Adjustment of regulations to include more people in the benefit system: extension of unemployment benefit for those dismissed or furloughed beyond 26 weeks (to include those who were dismissed or furloughed before the start of COVID-19 epidemic) and fast-tracking payment of unemployment benefits. 
• Compensation for parents that have to stay home due to the closure of schools and kindergartens.
• Measures to ensure pension rights are not affected negatively for retired health personnel who return to service in connection with the corona outbreak.
• Measures for laid-off employees to remain on company pension schemes.

On 17 April the government changed the regulations for sickness benefits so that people who travelled abroad against official travel advice, and therefore must enter home quarantine, may lose their right to sickness benefit during quarantine. These changes were introduced after more than 2000 people crossed the border into Sweden over Easter for holiday shopping.  

On 25 May the Government announced that punitive measures will be taken to reinforce the Working Environment Act and minimise the misuse of measures aimed at minimizing the economic burden of the pandemic to employers and employees, such as the lay-off regulations and other employee benefits. More than 400 cases of potential misuse have been reported to the Norwegian Tax Administration.

Cross-border collaboration

Under the Norwegian Health Preparedness Plan, Norway participates in international health prepared¬ness cooperation relating to prevention, monitoring, analysis, notification and disease control. Norway is a member of the WHO, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and NATO, and also participates in the EU/EEA cooperation. On 18 April, Norway contributed NOK 22.5 million towards purchasing COVID-19 testing kits provided by the IAEA (https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/covid19_iaea/id2698103/). Norway is a signatory of the Nordic Health Preparedness Agreement which comprises mutual exchange of information and assistance in the event of crises and disasters, and of a number of international conventions and agreements relating to notification and cooperation. The purpose of this cooperation is to strengthen preventive work and disease control. For example, early notification, access to information and cooperation on measures can help prevent or delay disease contamination across borders or contribute to more efficient aid efforts.

Norway participates in an increasing number of EU programmes and agencies. These agencies assist the EU and its Member States and play an important role both in policy formulation and implementation of national legislation.

Norway has also increased its political and financial support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as United Nations humanitarian response during the pandemic. Together with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other EU Member States as well as other countries, Norway is participating in a global response against coronavirus, seeking to gather funding to ensure the collaborative development and universal deployment of diagnostics, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus. Pledges have been collected from 4 May (https://global-response.europa.eu/index_en). Norway currently holds the Presidency of UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) within which it has established, together with the President of the General Assembly, a high-level panel on financial accountability, transparency and integrity (the FACTI panel). The ECOSOC recently facilitated the first universal agreement to finance the COVID-19 response. Norway also supports the International Financial Institutions’ debt moratorium and deferment of payments, which are aimed at ensuring rapid disbursement of funds to those in need and is crucial to halting the economic downturn in many countries.

The three high priority initiatives supported by the Norwegian Government during the COVID-19 pandemic are: vaccination, supporting a united global response, and ensuring that the financial flows reach their intended destination.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is the headquarters of the global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has offices in London (UK) and Washington DC (USA). CEPI is a global alliance financing and coordinating the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases. The CEPI team have been continuously maintaining an overview of the global landscape of COVID-19 vaccine development activity. See: https://cepi.net/news_cepi/cepi-publishes-analysis-of-covid-19-vaccine-development-landscape/