– Can go from very pressured to critical

Inside Bogane kindergarten in Bergen, the level of activity is not as it used to be. Due to high sickness absence among the employees, they have been forced to close one of the departments.

– We are in a situation that is not lucky for anyone, with high sickness absence and difficulties in getting substitutes for permanent staff. So it is an everyday life that is hectic, says kindergarten director Hanne Spilde in Bogane kindergarten.

MUST CLOSE: Kindergarten director Hanne Spilde in Bogane kindergarten in Bergen had to close a ward due to high sickness absence. Photo: Sorosh Sadat / TV 2

The kindergarten director says it is frustrating not to be able to have room for all the children who should have been there.

– It means huge challenges for parents and for the children – not least. I understand it is difficult for the parents when we have to go to these grips and shut down, says Spilde.

– Can go from pressure to critical

The kindergarten in Bergen is by no means alone. This week, an infection record has been set in Norway every day. Kommune-Norge is now sounding the alarm about high absenteeism due to illness and quarantine in several areas critical of society.

– There is a lot of pressure and the temporary staff market is mostly vacuumed, so it is very difficult to get compensation for people who are getting sick now, says Helge Eide, who is director of society, welfare and democracy in the municipal sector’s organization, KS.

FHI expects a significant winter wave towards March where many hundreds of thousands of Norwegians will be infected. KS is now warning of what could happen if FHI’s infection scenario strikes.

– Even in the nursing and care service, one can not count on not seeing any negative consequences of a further doubling of the infection compared to today, Eide says to TV 2.

FEARS STAFF CRISIS: Helge Eide, area director for society, welfare and democracy in KS, says the situation can go from very pressured to critical.  Photo: Petter Sørum -Johansen / TV 2

FEARS STAFF CRISIS: Helge Eide, area director for society, welfare and democracy in KS, says the situation can go from very pressured to critical. Photo: Petter Sørum -Johansen / TV 2

– Do you fear that it may become critical?

– Obviously. When we know how much pressure there is in the first place, and we apply those scenarios, we fear it can go from very pressured to critical, Eide answers.

Want a change in rules

Also in the private business world, you notice that many people are away from work.

– The self-reported sickness absence is what worries about staffing. And our industries must have people at work, says CEO Ivar Horneland Kristensen of the employers’ organization Virke to TV 2.

A new survey Virke has conducted among its members shows that seven out of ten large companies had more or much more self-reported absence in 2021 than normal. Horneland Kristensen now fears that the infection pressure will worsen the situation.

– It interferes with the operation. They can not carry out the plan they had because they have challenges with sick leave, says Horneland Kristensen.

Virke points out that the combination of strict measures and high absenteeism characterizes several of the industries now.

– The business leaders I talk to are grayer in the face now than they were on March 12, 2020.

Therefore, Horneland Kristensen demands immediate action from the government.

CONCERNED: CEO Ivar Horneland Kristensen in Virke says sickness absence is high.

CONCERNED: CEO Ivar Horneland Kristensen in Virke says sickness absence is high.

– What the government must do, as a single employer side calls for, is to reduce the deductible for sick leave from five to three days. And then the government must adapt the quarantine rules and ensure that we have test capacity, so that we can keep people at work. Here they must be active, as we enter a peak of infection, says the Virke boss.

The opposition is critical

Virke receives support from several in the opposition in the Storting.

– This is a huge burden for the companies, and they have problems getting enough people. And then we must get a corona strategy in place that assesses whether the quarantine rules are adapted to the situation we are entering, says parliamentary representative Nicolai Astrup (H).

The Liberal Party believes the government is procrastinating.

– NIPH has advised the authorities to introduce testing instead of quarantine, and then we see that the government holds back. They have been doing this for over a week and it is difficult to understand why, says Liberal Party leader Guri Melby to TV 2.

– Act fast

The government believes the criticism is flawed and says they are acting as soon as possible.

– We act absolutely continuously on the advice we receive, says State Secretary Ellen Moen Rønning-Arenesen (Labor Party) in the Ministry of Health and Care Services to TV 2.

The State Secretary says that they are waiting for the municipalities to be ready the new test regime.

– We are ready on the starting line to say “go”, as long as our dialogue with the municipalities is in order, and we can make sure that the distribution and everything is in place, says Rønning-Arnesen.

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