Norway Prime Minister Questioned Over Breaking Covid-19 Rules in Ski Resort Birthday Celebrations
20th March 2021
Last modified on March 23rd, 2021
They are questioning Erna Solberg after she admitted breaching the country’s coronavirus regulations during her birthday celebrations in the ski resort of Geilo. UPDATED
“We have started an investigation and part of this involves questioning the prime minister,” police inspector Per Morten Sending told the Reuters news agency.
He said the interrogation had not yet finished, but police aimed to conclude the investigation this week.
A breach of social-distancing rules can be punishable by a fine in Norway.
She was celebrating her 60th birthday in Geilo with her family at the end of last month.
Thirteen members of her family and entourage ate a local restaurant in Geilo on Friday the February 25th.
Rules at the time said no more than 10 people could gather for a private event at a restaurant.
Erna Solberg was not present at the meal that evening as she was having an eye check-up in Oslo.
The next evening she joined the group and was present as 14 people ate sushi in an apartment she had rented.
“I who every single day stand and tell people about infection control should have known the rules better. But the truth is that I did not check the rules thoroughly and did not realise that when a family goes out together and is a party larger than 10, then it is classed as an event,” Solberg told the broadcaster, NRK.
“On the basis of information that has appeared in the press, as well as the Prime Minister’s own statements, the police have decided to initiate an investigation related to a possible violation of infection control regulations,” the South Eastern Police District said in a statement.
Erna Solberg has also posted a full statement on social media.
“As Prime Minister, I have a special responsibility to follow the rules and recommendations that apply,” she posted.
“I have helped to adopt these rules and recommendations myself and should therefore know all the details.
“I’m sorry my family and I have broken the corona regulations, it should never have happened.”
We reproduce her statement with her full version of events at the end of this article.
There has been reaction on social media, with some calling for her resignation.
“If the PRIME MINISTER, with hordes of advisors, can’t figure out the rules, it’s TOTALLY UNREASONABLE to expect the average person to do so,” said one person on Twitter.
“This should not have happened, and it is clear that we who make the rules and talk about the importance of them, must follow the rules and advice,” said the Health minister, Bent Høie.
It is likely she will be fined if she is found guilty.
In addition to the legal consequences, the affair could have ramifications for her political career as the country prepares for elections in September.
Full statement from Erna Solberg:
“For over a year I have asked every single one of you to follow rules and recommendations on infection protection.
Most Norwegians have done this.
This is why we in Norway have so far managed better than many other countries.
One of our most important weapons in the fight against the virus, has been that Norwegians as best as they can follow the rules, and listen to the recommendations that the government is making.
It rests a particularly great responsibility for me as Prime Minister to follow the rules and recommendations to the point and dot.
But now I’m the one who’s done wrong.
During the winter holidays, Sindre, the children and I rented an apartment in Geilo, together with my sister and her family.
My other sister and her family rented an apartment close by.
We went for walks together and we tried to organize our stay in a contagious safe way.
Unfortunately, it slipped for us, and we were unable to follow the rules and recommendations as we should.
The family had booked a table on Friday night at the Hallingstuene restaurant.
But because I got an inflammation on one eye and had to travel to Ullevål for treatment, I was in Oslo from Friday morning to Saturday afternoon.
The rest of the family went to the restaurant.
There were 13 people together at dinner.
They were spread over three different tables, and sat with a good distance.
We thought this dinner was within the regulations, but it wasn’t.
The rules say that such a restaurant visit is also considered an event, if you are more than 10 people who have a private gathering at the restaurant.
This also applies if you are sitting in the part of the restaurant that is open to everyone.
We hadn’t examined that well enough beforehand, and it turns out we broke the rules.
Saturday night we ordered take away sushi.
For practical reasons, we put the food out on a table in one apartment.
The plan was for everyone to come and supply, and then distribute themselves to the two apartments again.
But instead everyone stayed in our apartment.
We sat with a good distance, and over two floors.
But at some point we were 14 pieces in the apartment.
There were too many from the recommendation that applied.
It’s a recommendation I know well, because I have given it myself.
That’s exactly why we planned to split up when the food was picked up.
When more than ten remained in our apartment, I should, not just as the private person Erna, but especially as Prime Minister of Norway, have intervened.
I didn’t, and I’m very sorry.
I think this is embarrassing, but I’m primarily sad because I know I have to lead as a particularly good example.
I have tried to do that throughout this pandemic, but here I have made mistakes.
As prime minister, I have a special responsibility to follow the rules and recommendations that apply.
I have helped to adopt these rules and recommendations myself and should therefore know all the details.
If the visit to the restaurant is followed up with fines, we will of course make up for us like everyone else.
I’m sorry my family and I have broken the corona regulations, it should never have happened.
We should of course also have followed all the recommendations, as I have asked you to.
I especially think of all those who have had to cancel things they have been looking forward to, a birthday with classmates, a celebration with friends or other important things.
I understand those who get angry and disappointed in this.
I’ve done wrong and for that I’m sorry.
I am very sad about what has happened.”