Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her cabinet ministers held a kids-only press conference about the COVID-19 disease on Monday in an effort to directly answer the big questions that are keeping Norway’s littlest people up at night.
Solberg and her ministers stood on a podium and answered written questions sent in from children around the country, which touched on schooling, national holidays, going outside and the future of many “mommies and daddies.”
“Because of the coronavirus, our lives have become very different, both for adults and children,” Solberg said. “I know that many children think it is scary, and I understand that very well.
“It’s OK to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.”
Norway has invoked emergency powers and imposed strict social-distancing regulations to control the spread of the virus, including fines and jail time for anyone caught breaking quarantine, vacationing in cabins or gathering in large groups.
The country has also shut down all schools and universities to contain the virus.
“Even if your school has been contaminated, it will go well with nearly anyone,” Solberg said in response to a child’s question on Monday. “The same with Mommy and Daddy, if they are infected. Adults who are healthy don’t become very ill, but the coronavirus is dangerous to those who have serious illnesses, who are already ill because of something else than this.”
“Why am I not allowed to celebrate my birthday?” one child asked.
“It’s because many people should not be gathered in order to prevent people from being infected,” said Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, Norway’s minister for family and children. “You can be a bit extra creative and try to celebrate via FaceTime or think of another way to celebrate that you think is good.”
Solberg chipped in with her own bit of birthday advice.
“If someone in the class has a birthday, all the others should call and sing a birthday song, individually, to have something to do,” the prime minister said.
Solberg said she couldn’t tell when the lockdowns will end and suggested that it might be “perhaps” a year or earlier before a vaccine is ready.
Norway has recorded more than 1,400 confirmed cases of the virus to date.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.
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