Norwegian government strikes back at quarantine criticism from school staff

Halvard HøllelandPhoto: Terje Pedersen / NTB
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The Norwegian government has defended the new quarantine scheme for employees in schools and kindergartens and claimed that part of the criticism of the scheme is misguided.

“It is incorrect that teachers will be in free-time quarantine until well into the spring, as the Education Union claims. The government has been clear that all employees in kindergartens and schools should be given priority for a booster dose,” State Secretary Halvard Hølleland (AP) of the Ministry of Education stated in an email to NTB.

He pointed out that employees who have taken the booster dose will be exempt from quarantine due to close contact that occurs later than one week after the last dose.

Broad criticism

On Monday, the government announced that employees in schools and kindergartens would be exempted from infection quarantine during working hours from January 1. Employees who have been in close contact with an infected person can go to work but must be tested on days three and seven after close contact.

The scheme has been met with clear criticism from the Education Union, the Teachers’ Association, and the National Union of Schools.

“As I perceive the new rules, it is the case that teachers and kindergarten employees are exempted from quarantine during working hours, but that they must be quarantined in their free time. With that, we can get a situation where they are at work but will be in the free-time quarantine well beyond the spring,” Deputy Leader Hege Valås of the Education Union told NTB on Monday night.

“Unreasonable and illogical”

Valås said that the Education Union has a great understanding of the government’s desire to keep schools and kindergartens open.

“The rule is still unreasonable and illogical because the employees in schools and kindergartens can be close contacts and close to students and children in kindergarten every day, but at the same time in the free-time quarantine and then for example cut off from picking up their own child in kindergarten,” he said.

The Norwegian Teachers’ Association believes that the quarantine exemption is a bad solution and is asking the government to reconsider.

“We have already received several strong reactions from our members,” leader of the Norwegian Teachers’ Association Rita Helgesen said in a statement to NTB.

More third doses on the way

The LO Association National Union of Schools is also critical.

“The provision actually means that they send all employees in schools and kindergartens out where there is a lot of infection, without infection control equipment,” Union Leader Mette Johnsen Walker told NTB.

Hølleland at the Ministry of Education believes that many employees will, in any case, be released from quarantine because they will soon receive the booster dose.

“Just into the New Year, it is expected that there will be many more employees who meet the requirements to be able to get a booster dose, i.e., that at least 4.5 months have passed since their second dose. Estimates from the FHI are that 146,000 employees will be ready for vaccination in week 2,” he said.

Source: © NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayEducation

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