Hans Petter Graver
Professor at the University of Oslo
Professor, Arctic University of Norway UiT
Professor, Arctic University of Norway, UiT
University of oslo
Lise Mørkved Helsingen
Senior Lecturer at the University of Oslo
Professor of Philosophy, Høgskolen i Innlandet
University of oslo
Professor at the University of Oslo
We must be careful with continuous rules that are the result of urgency.
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
The Government has recently sent for consultation a proposal to expand the provisions of the Infection Control Act, which gives authority for regulations on corona certificates, quarantined hotels, isolation and quarantine. The temporary provisions will be repealed on December 1 and 11, 2021, but it is now proposed to extend them until July 1, 2022.
The background of the proposal is the need for preparedness in the event of a possible exacerbation of the coronary pandemic.
Is it better to have emergency measures in place in the event of a crisis, or is it better not to regulate this in advance? This is an old discussion. It was last updated following the Emergency Permit Law Committee proposal two years ago.
The problem with having the legal authority ready is that you can lower the threshold for using them.
The problem with not having them is that acute situations can force larger and worse homes than if you had them before.
Prepared under pressure
The last two years have fully illustrated this last point. The crown foundations in the Infection Control Act were prepared under pressure, without regular legal procedures or extensive investigation, consultation and general political debate in the Storting.
This means that legal instruments probably do not weigh the various considerations against each other as they could and should have.
They also do not contain the control mechanisms that should have been in operation. This makes it questionable to extend the current rules.
If you continue to extend, temporary emergency permits will easily become the norm. It can legitimize unfortunate patterns for later crises. It is also a factor that public opinion is still influenced by what we have been through, and that the limits of what is considered acceptable may have changed compared to what is considered acceptable under more normal conditions.
We need a selection
A broad study and treatment of how the legal bases should be to combat and regulate the pandemic in the future is necessary.
To answer this, a selection of people with experience in knowledge management should be established, including proportionality assessment, infection control and legal certainty.
The committee’s mandate should be to assess how the government can be empowered and, at the same time, ensure that the actions taken assess the nature, scope and proportionality of the interventions.
The committee should also provide specific recommendations on how authorities can facilitate the generation of new knowledge in a crisis situation.
However, we must answer whether we should now have those legal resources. It was not the case that we were left empty-handed on March 12, 2020. The Infection Control Act, and we had National contingency plan for pandemic influenza as of 2014. Could the pandemic have been managed in accordance with the Infection Control Act as it was prior to March 12, 2020? If not, why not? And furthermore: Could the pandemic have been managed in accordance with the 2014 contingency plan? If not, why not?
What does the Infection Control Act say?
To start with the law. Section 3-1 of the Infection Control Act provides a legal basis for comprehensive testing. Paragraphs 4–1 give authority to close the partnership: meetings, business, and communications.
It also authorizes the isolation of people in restricted areas or the imposition of other restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Paragraphs 4 and 2 authorize the exclusion of infected persons from school and work.
Paragraphs 5 to 3 state that the municipal doctor may request that an infected person be isolated. Anyone who objects to this can be forcibly isolated.
Paragraphs 4 to 3 authorize the introduction of the entry quarantine. Since many who come to Norway do not have a place to quarantine, you must also provide a sensible legal basis for deciding where and how to quarantine, including quarantine hotels.
The law does not provide for the isolation of people at the national level or restrictions on their freedom of movement. It also does not provide a legal basis for quarantine for uninfected people (close contact quarantine), entry ban, or corona certificate.
But we do not have the knowledge to decide if such measures have been decisive in dealing with the pandemic, or if the same results could also have been achieved with advice and recommendations.
Contingency plan rejected
Then to National contingency plan for pandemic influenza since 2014. Prime Minister Erna Solberg has stated that while we had a national plan to deal with a pandemic, we did not have a plan for this particular pandemic. Of course, this is correct, because the coronavirus was a new virus that is not exactly like any other virus.
But the 2014 contingency plan points out precisely this and states that it is not possible to make a plan that “predicts in detail what measures are going to be implemented.”
However, it can be said that the ideas of this contingency plan were largely rejected by the government during the handling of the corona pandemic. The plan advises against restricting activity for all or part of the population, closing borders or quarantining people suspected of being infected. This is because these measures are likely to have “little effect, are resource intensive, and run counter to the principle of not unnecessarily slowing down normal activity.”
One of the main findings of the Corona Commission report was that the government’s handling of the pandemic represented a “paradigm shift” because, to a large extent and for a long time, society and the population were severely restricted from reducing and keep infection. at a low level.
However, no one has given any additional justification as to why “the most intrusive measures in Norway in peacetime” were necessary.
According to the Korona Commission, the process and evaluations that led to this conclusion have not been documented in writing anywhere.
We believe that we must be careful with the continuous rules that are the result of urgency, and that were obviously not necessary given the opportunities already had in the Infection Control Act and the Pandemic Plan for 2014.