Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg has been fined for breaching her own government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Solberg planned a meal with 13 other people for her 60th birthday celebrations in February, despite public gatherings in Norway being limited to 10 people.
Police concluded the dinner organised for the Prime Minister had exceeded the number of guests allowed and fined Solberg 20,000 kroner (€1,975).
“Even if the law is the same for everyone, not everyone is equal,” Commissioner Ole Sæverud told a press conference on Friday.
“Ms Solberg is the country’s most important elected representative and has, on several occasions, been the leading figure in the government’s decisions on measures to curb the pandemic.”
“It is therefore considered justified to give a sanction to maintain public confidence in the health rules,” Sæverud added in a statement.
Solberg had admitted that 13 members of her family had dined at the Hallingstuene restaurant on February 26 at a winter sports resort in Geilo.
Although the prime minister pulled out of the meal at the last minute, police held her jointly responsible for organising it.
Authorities have not investigated another meal organised the next day with all 14 family members in attendance at Solberg’s rented flat.
Police say that “there were no local regulations governing this at the time”.
In a lengthy post on Facebook, Solberg had apologised, acknowledging Norweigan citizens who were “angry and disappointed” with her actions.
“For over a year I have asked every single one of you to follow rules and recommendations on infection protection,” Solberg said.
“It rests a particularly great responsibility for me as Prime Minister to follow the rules and recommendations to the point, but now I’m the one who’s done wrong.”
“I’m very sorry. I think this is embarrassing, but I’m primarily sad because I know I have to lead as a particularly good example,” Solberg said.
The controversy has tarnished the public image of the popular centre-right leader, who has been Norway’s prime minister since 2013.
Solberg has been widely praised for her handling of the health crisis but is beginning to face criticism ahead of parliamentary elections on 13 September.
Although police said both Solberg’s husband, Sindre Finnes, and the restaurant in Geilo had also violated the law, neither have been fined.