The Norwegian government will have the right to impose strict closures on society without parliamentary approval, according to a new bill passed on Monday. The proposal has been strongly criticized, with the Venstre party calling it a “weakening of democracy”.
During the Corona crisis, Norway chose to shut down society and impose severe restrictions on citizens. In order to implement these measures, the government had to seek approval from the Norwegian Parliament, which gave it the power to make temporary changes to the Communicable Diseases Act and shut down society.
A recently published study found that while Norway’s strategy saved about 2,000 lives, most of them over the age of 80, it cost society about NOK 133 million per life saved, which is about 100 times the normal cost of treating deadly diseases. The Norwegian researchers noted in the study that Sweden, which did not shut down society but relied on herd immunity, had a more effective strategy than Norway.
The Ministry of Health has now introduced a bill that will allow it to issue regulations on isolation, quarantine and other restrictions on movement in the event of a serious outbreak of a common dangerous infectious disease. In other words, the government will be able to impose strict infection control measures without the approval of the elected parliament.
Critics: Goes against democracy
On Monday evening, 111 members of parliament voted in favor of the bill and 55 against, according to the national broadcaster NRK. Liberal Party leader Sylvi Listhaug called the vote a “weakening of democracy.”
– Unfortunately, this has been a remarkable day in recent Norwegian political history, Listhaug told NRK and continues:
– I am disappointed that Erna Solberg and the Conservatives have given the government a majority for a proposal that could lead to very intrusive measures in people’s private lives by bypassing the necessary parliamentary control in the Storting. The result is a weakening of our democracy.
The proposal has also been criticized by the Norwegian Liberals, Fremskrittspartiet and Kristelig Folkeparti.
The new bill has also been criticized by the media in recent weeks, with Schibsted’s VG newspaper calling it “democratic madness” in its editorial, while the editorial in Aller Media’s Dagbladet points out that the Storting is depriving itself of power with what it calls an “authoritarian proposal”. Professors Hans Petter Graver and Morten Walløe Tvedt also criticize the proposal.
“The changes to the law that the Stortinget is considering are dramatic for democracy, human rights and Norwegian sovereignty”, they write in Aftenposten.
The formal decision on the bill will be made after the second round of voting in parliament.