By Gwladys Fouche
OSLO (Reuters) – Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Norwegian children on Wednesday it would take time for life to return to normal with the country, like others in Europe, preparing to reopen parts of society shut down by the coronavirus outbreak.
She spoke at her second nationally telecast news conference held specially for children, with adults not allowed to ask questions, since the crisis began. At the first such briefing on March 16, Solberg told children it was OK to feel scared about the pandemic.
“It will still be a while before everything returns to normal. How long it will be, we don’t know,” she said, flanked by her ministers for education and for family. No children were present, in keeping with social-distancing rules.
“One of the things I miss the most is to give a good hug to my friends,” Solberg told her young viewers. “For now it is not possible with the rules to maintain distance that we have now. But other things will soon be possible.”
The Nordic country will next week start reopening some public and private institutions after a month-long shutdown to help prevent a spread of the novel coronavirus.
Nurseries will reopen on April 20 and primary schools from first to fourth grades from April 27.
Most Norwegian children are at home, mostly barred from meeting friends and relatives, especially elderly ones seen as most vulnerable to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
“I want to thank all of you who have studied at home, who have helped out with looking after your little brother, or your big brother, who have helped Mum and Dad, and helped me, to make the days go well with the special rules we have now,” Solberg told her young viewers.
She then answered questions posted via the children’s TV programme NRK Super. They included: “Why is it safe for younger children to go to school but not for the older children?”; “When can I give hugs to my friends again?”; or “Can I visit my Granny and my Granddad in Germany this summer?”
Solberg also said children’s street parades in several cities had to be cancelled, including the biggest one in Oslo reviewed by King Harald on Norway’s national day, May 17.
“There won’t be big processions this year. We can’t have that,” Solberg told the children, hastening to add that efforts were continuing to find other ways to celebrate.
Norway has reported a total of 6,677 COVID-19 infections and 130 deaths to date.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)