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Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact

Low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle said on Tuesday it would cancel “approximately 3,000 flights” from mid-March to mid-June as the coronavirus outbreak hits travel.

Airline Norwegian cancels 3,000 flights due to coronavirus impact
Photo: Rune Feldt Rasmussen/Zuma/Ritzau Scanpix
Editor's note: The situation around the novel coronavirus is changing rapidly, and this article is no longer being updated. Please click HERE for the latest updates and HERE for all our coronavirus coverage.

The cancellations represent 15 percent of the airline's capacity for the period.

“The past week, Norwegian has experienced reduced demand on future bookings. The company will cancel about 3,000 flights to meet the change in demand. The cancellations represent approximately 15 percent of the total capacity for the period mid-March to mid-June,” the company said in a statement to the Oslo stock exchange.

The company added that the cancellations would affect the airline's entire network.

“More details will be shared as soon as they are ready to be implemented. Affected customers will receive information about these changes as soon as they take place,” the statement continued.

A significant number of staff at the company are likely to be affected by the decision.

“Unfortunately, cancellations will affect a significant share of our colleagues at Norwegian. We have initiated formal consultations with our unions regarding temporary layoffs for flying crew members as well as employees on the ground and in the offices.

“We will continue to engage in constructive dialogue with unions and employees to work through this difficult situation together,” Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram said in the statement.

Norwegian has already suspended flights between Oslo and Milan until May based on travel guidelines from Norway's foreign ministry as well as health authority recommendations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) last week estimated that losses in revenue for airlines due to the new coronavirus could range from $63 billion (55 billion euros) to $113 billion, depending on whether the spread of the virus was contained.

Norwegian, which has been in deficit for three years and is heavily indebted due to an ambitious expansion policy, especially in long-haul flights, is particularly vulnerable.

Last Thursday, the company withdrew its 2020 forecast, which predicted a return to profits, citing the new coronavirus epidemic.

In early afternoon trading on Tuesday, shares in Norwegian were down 5.8 percent on the Oslo Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile in neighbouring Denmark, authorities on Tuesday banned all flights to heavily affected areas, such as parts of China, Iran and Italy, for two weeks.

The Danish government also urged people to avoid public transport during rush hours.

On Tuesday, Denmark had 158 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and Norway had 192.

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OSLO

EXPLAINED: What Oslo’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you

Most, but not all, of the Norwegian capital's local Covid restrictions have been lifted to fall in line with national coronavirus rules, with new limits on guests at home and new guidance on face masks. Here’s a rundown of what the latest restrictions mean for you.

EXPLAINED: What Oslo's easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you
Oslo's skyline. Photo by Oscar Daniel Rangel on Unsplash

Covid-19 measures in Oslo have been relaxed, with the majority of local restrictions being replaced with the looser national rules.

The new rules are a mix of steps three and four of the city’s five-step reopening plan and were introduced after the lowest infection numbers since last autumn were recorded in Oslo last week. 

Last week, 239 coronavirus infections were registered in the Norwegian capital. 

“The gradual, controlled opening of Oslo has been a success. Many of the rules that the people of Oslo have been expected to live with are now being removed, and we will essentially live with the same corona rules as people elsewhere in Norway,” Oslo’s Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Not all local restrictions have been lifted however, meaning there are a mix of local and national rules in place. 

Below we’ll take a look at how the measures will affect everyday life in Oslo. 

At home 

The significant change here is that the ban on having more than ten people gathered at home has been lifted completely. Instead, this will be replaced with the national recommendation not to have more than guests. 

So while it will not be recommended to have more than ten guests, it’s not an enforceable rule anymore. 

READ MORE: What happens if you get caught breaking the Covid-19 rules in Norway

Shopping 

The local rules for shopping malls and stores have been tweaked too. There will no longer be any rule that makes face masks mandatory in shops. In addition to this, the official social distancing measure has been halved, to one metre, and the limit on the number of people allowed in shops has been scrapped. 

However, it’s worth noting that some shops may wish to keep some infection control measures in place if they feel it helps keep staff and shoppers safe, so it may be worth bringing a mask along on your next trip to the shops just in case.

Face masks  

The rule on mandatory face masks in public has also been given the axe, with two exceptions. 

You will still need one if you are taking public transport or taking a taxi. 

Masks will no longer be needed in shops, gyms, museums and galleries, indoor swimming pools, spa facilities and hotel facilities such as pools and dining areas. 

Although, some places may still wish to continue with a mask policy, so always remember to have one handy to be sure. 

Hospitality 

At indoor public places, such as restaurants, 50 people are allowed in venues without fixed assigned seats and 200 people at events with set, assigned seats.

Outdoors, 200 people can gather in cohorts of three, meaning a potential venue of 600 for places with the space and capacity and where there is fixed designated seating.

Soon, when the government changes its rules for events, up to 5,000 people will be able to gather when there is a seating plan in place, provided venues aren’t operating above 50 percent capacity.  

Up to 20 people can book a table at a restaurant or bar when indoors and 30 people outdoors. 

Alcohol will now be able to be served until midnight rather than 10 pm, and this rule will stay in place until July 4th. The cut-off point will remain in place even if national rules change and allow alcohol to be served later. 

Sports, leisure and entertainment 

Bingo halls, bowling alleys, arcades, playgrounds can now reopen.

Oslo’s numbers cap on the people allowed in gyms, museums, galleries, and indoor pools has been lifted. 

Now, 20 people can work out, go for a swim, or take in some art indoors, and up to 30 can do so outdoors. 

Schools 

Restrictions for schools and kindergartens haven’t changed, however. 

This means that schools and kindergartens in Oslo will remain at yellow level. 

Yellow level means that full class sizes are allowed, but mixing between classes must be kept to a minimum. Yellow level also means increased cleaning and hygiene measures are also in place. 

You can read more about yellow level here

Adult education and university are at red level, which means digital learning where possible and minimal contact between students and teachers. 

You can read more on red level here

Work

People are still required to work from home where possible until July 4th. 

Executive mayor Johansen has previously said the home office would be one of the last pandemic measures to go, meaning it could be here for a while longer. 

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