INTERVIEW: Why Norway won’t have a second lockdown

Even if Norway is hit by a severe second wave of coronavirus infections, the country should avoid another lockdown, the head of the expert committee tasked with analysing future strategies has told The Local.

INTERVIEW: Why Norway won't have a second lockdown
Steinar Holden, a professor of economics at Oslo University, submitting another report back in 2013. Photo: Norway Finance Ministry/Flickr
Steinar Holden, the top professor at Oslo University's economics department, leads the expert committee set up by Norway's Directorate of Health to carry out socio-economic evaluations of various infection control measures, which submitted its second report on May 22. 
He told The Local that the high cost of lockdown measures meant they should not be reimposed if the level of infection begins to rise again in Norway. 
“We recommend a much lighter approach,” he said. “We should start with measures at an individual level — which is what we have now — and if there’s a second wave, we should have measures in the local area where this occurs, and avoid measures at a national level if that is possible.”
The decision to close schools and kindergartens, limit gatherings to just five people, close down hairdressers and other one-on-one treatments, and impose home working, had been expensive he said. 
“The measures that we enforced in on March 12th have had quite heavy consequences: we estimate the effect of all those at 27bn kronor (€2.5bn) a month,” he said. 
According to the report, the best strategy is Norway's current approach, which is to use testing and contact tracing to isolate new outbreaks of infection as they occur, keeping Norway's reproduction number below 0.9, while limiting restrictions in wider society to individual good hygiene and some social distancing measures.
This so-called 'keep down' strategy, if it succeeds, would cost just 131bn kroner between June 2020 and 2023, when a vaccine should have been developed. 
If it fails to keep the infection under control, however, and renewed lockdown measures are required to keep Norway's reproduction number at around 0.9, then the cost of a so-called 'unstable keep down' strategy would rise to a prohibitively expensive 386bn kroner over the period. 
In this case, Holden said it might be better to switch to a 'brake strategy'.
“If it’s necessary to have very strict restrictions for a long time, then the costs are higher than letting the infection go through the population,” Holden told The Local. “Because that would be immensely costly.”
Such a Norwegian brake strategy, Holden said, was “perhaps less restrictive than the Swedish approach”, because Sweden is still aiming to reduce the reproduction number below 1, whereas Norway would aim only to keeping the reproduction number below 1.15. 
The brake strategy would cost 386bn kroner — 234bn (20bn) less than a second lockdown — but while keeping the number hospitalised at a manageable number, would mean about 3,000 additional deaths.  
According to the report, the brake strategy comes with its own risks, however. 
If it fails to suppress the reproduction number to 1.15, the cost of an 'unstable brake' strategy could soar as high as 604bn, exceeding even the highest cost estimates of a lockdown, at 540bn. 
In an absolute worst-case scenario where a brake strategy fails to suppress the virus, and it is then discovered that there infection does not lead to an increase in immunity within the population — which the committee judged unlikely — then the costs are higher still. 
An 'unstable brake scenario with poor immunity' would cost Norway 620bn over the three years. 

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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


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. 


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. 


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


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.