Minister of Trade and Industry Jan Christian Vestre (Labor Party) is pleased that the business community has received relief this week. But he does not dare promise new relief yet.
A happy Minister of Trade and Industry meets E24 the day after the government introduced relief on several of the strict measures, which they introduced after the omicron infection hit Norway in December.
After a month’s closing time, the beer taps across the country are open until 11 pm.
The gyms can start with group lessons again. Although it is recommended to continue with home offices where possible, the hardest hit industries have reopened.
– For some industries, these tightening will have felt like a full shutdown. I fully understand and respect those who say they were banned from doing business. I buy that argument, says Vestre.
– But Norway was not shut down as in previous periods. If we had not tightened up, I am worried that we would actually be facing a real closure in the new year.
Three factors will determine
Unlike the start of the pandemic, the plan this time is not for as few people as possible to be infected. It is now assumed that very many will be infected.
– The government has said that it is important to have control. Many will get omikron, and as Camilla Stoltenberg says, it may not be so dangerous. But not everyone has to get it at the same time, that’s the most important thing.
– What does it take to go back and introduce new austerity measures?
– If the goal is not for as few people as possible to get the virus, the measures must be adapted accordingly. Therefore, the government has softened the measures within school and education, nightlife, how many can be gathered and the quarantine provisions, says Vestre.
He points to three factors that will determine whether the strategy has succeeded – and what can be the way forward:
- Congestion in the hospital
- That the municipal health service is able to handle the increased infection
- That one manages to maintain almost normal social operations by not having too many people on sick leave at the same time.
– If this strategy stands up, it’s good. And then the government believes that one should be able to consider further relief as well, says Vestre.
The Minister of Trade and Industry says that they may want to create new, more targeted schemes if there is a new closure.
– We have gone from having very broad infection control measures because Norway has been shut down, to the measures in this last round being specifically targeted in a way that means that individual companies and individual industries were affected, he says.
– One can imagine that if this were to happen again, we should perhaps look at more pointed and targeted economic schemes towards the industries that are directly affected by the infection control measures.
– Could have been faster
The government has recently been criticized for the communication.
At the beginning of December, Western people asked “to have ice in their stomachs” and asked people to go to Christmas dinners and use the cities. Ten days later, the government shut down beer taps across the country. Even the reopening of the taps did not go without criticism, where one actor gave the government a “high grade in communication” about the reopening.
– Do you think you have been clear enough to the business community?
– We have at least tried to be as clear as we can, given the situation we have been in at all times. But it has changed all the time, says Vestre.
The Solberg government had ruled Norway’s corona management for a year and a half when Jonas Gahr Støre took over as prime minister with a new government.
Vestre says that this may also have affected communication.
– The civil service is skilled and has worked with this for a long time, but the Solberg government eventually became very coordinated and coordinated on the corona management, and became very experienced in it. But if you compare the first weeks of the Solberg government, for example, it took many months before the first overall package came to the Storting. We do it in a much shorter time, says Vestre.
– We are a new government and have got both the omikron and the electricity crisis right in our lap. People should know that we work very closely together and that we take management responsibility seriously. But it is a lot for a government that is new and that will both deal with these crises, and at the same time lead Norway through all the other things we are doing and the things we started when we took office.
– There are very large processes and projects underway to take Norway in a new direction … which I look forward to we can return to.
– What could you have improved on then?
– We spent a lot of time right from the start on insights from the health authorities and had it up weekly, says Vestre.
– But if we had thought that omikron could happen, then it could be that our schemes and the apparatus around, might have been even a little faster. And maybe even more accurate from day one. At least I take that lesson with me and do not intend to pursue any self-defense on this. Because there is always potential for improvement.
Needs Storting approval
Now Vestre must get its adjusted compensation scheme through the Storting.
The adjusted scheme, with restrictions on dividends and claims for reimbursement, has received criticism from employers’ organizations. SV, the government’s closest ally in the Storting, is among those who have been critical of the entire scheme.
SV’s Kari Elisabeth Kaski called the cash support “too generous” and said it had “contributed to increased differences”.
– We must prioritize securing the employee, not the business owner, Kaski said on Thursday.
Vestre says the Storting should approve the scheme they have put on the table:
– I have gone a little high and said that the companies that have the paperwork in order can get money from the national compensation scheme on account already in January, but that presupposes that the Storting agrees and adopts the proposal that is on the table. The Storting should do that. Then the companies applying for December will be able to have the money in their account already in January.
– Are you going to use restaurants or bars now?
– We’ll see. Maybe this weekend, says Vestre before he hurries on.