Norway extends coronavirus lockdown until after Easter
Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced on Tuesday that the tough measures taken to slow the spread of coronavirus would remain in place for at least another fortnight.
"It means further weeks with strong restrictions on our lives," Solberg said at the start of the press conference.
"I want to thank everyone who has followed the advice of the authorities, and like everyone else, I look forward to returning to everyday life."
On March 12, Norway's government announced what it described as the "the strongest measures ever taken in peacetime" to slow the spread of the virus, with the measures initially in place for a fortnight.
Rather than expiring on Thursday, the measures will now be kept in place until at least April 13, Solberg said.
The government, however, did open the possibility of 'adjustments' for the kindergarten and school closure, so as to protect 'vulnerable groups'.
During the press conference, Solberg also said that people should not meet outside in groups of more than five people.
As the press conference began, the public broadcaster NRK reported a new analysis by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which estimated that without the lockdown, the the number of infections in the country could have risen as high as 500,000 within three weeks.
After twelve days of lockdown, the institute estimates that a maximum of about 23,000 people are currently infected, almost ten times the number of confirmed infections (2,556), but a fraction of what could have been the case.
The institute believes that the lockdown measures have reduced the infection rate from about 2.4 to as low as 1.3, meaning that each infected person may now only infect an average of 1.3 others.
At the press conference, Solberg cautioned that any numbers were still provisional.
"It is not possible to say how quickly the infection is spreading. It will still take a few days before we see if the measures we have implemented have worked," she said.
The measures put into place on March 12 and now extended include:
- Closure of all schools, kindergartens and universities.
- A provision requiring primary schools and kindergartens to stay partially open in order to look after the children of key personnel in healthcare, transport and other critical social functions.
- Cultural events, sports events, gyms and businesses offering hairdressing, skincare, massage, body care and tattooing are all banned. Swimming pools will be closed.
- Buffet restaurants are banned. Other restaurants, bars and cafés must ensure guests are kept at least one metre from one another.
- A requirement for everyone arriving in Norway from outside the Nordic to enter quarantine, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. This is retroactive to 27 February.
- Restrictions on visitors to all the country's health facilities and the introduction of access control.
- People are asked not to visit institutions housing vulnerable groups (old people's home, psychiatric hospitals, prisons etc).
- Healthcare professionals working with patients are banned from travelling abroad.
This will be updated.