Superspreader fears after 15,000 join Oslo anti-racism protest

Norwegian health authorities have expressed concern that Friday's We Can't Breathe protest in Oslo could lead to a surge of new cases after it drew as many as 15,000 people.

Superspreader fears after 15,000 join Oslo anti-racism protest
As many as 15,000 people attended the demonstration. Photo: Screen Grab
According to the Dagbladet newspaper, police believe between 12,000 and 15,000 were gathered in Eidsvoll Square outside the Norwegian parliament on Friday afternoon to show solidarity with those in the US protesting the death in police custody of George Floyd, as well as to protest racism and police brutality in Norway. 
But while the scale of the protests underlined the importance of the issue, it also posed a health threat, deputy health director Espen Rostrup Nakstad told Norway's state broadcaster NRK
“If you gather a lot of people in one place, the likelihood that one of them is ill without the person even knowing it is not negligible,” he said. 
“Then we can get a superspreader situation, where you are close to each other, and one person infects a lot of people. Then we suddenly could have a small outbreak in Oslo, and we want to avoid that.” 
He said it was important that all who attended the demonstration get tested if they experience any symptoms in the coming days.
A study by Ben Cowling at Hong Kong University recently estimated that 70 percent of the those infected with coronavirus did not pass on the disease, and that 20 per cent of Covid-19 patients are responsible for 80 percent of transmissions. 
Most transmission now appears to take place at superspreader events, such as choir meetings, gym classes, business conferences, and also, potentially political demonstrations. 
While the protest's organisers on Thursday night said they would try to ensure that the protest respected social distancing guidelines, with no single group of more than 50 meeting, many people on the Facebook page said before the event that they intended to break the guidelines. 
In the end, thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Norway's Storting parliament, holdings signs saying “Black Lives Matter”, “We can't breathe”, or “No Racism on Our Streets.”
Many people dropped a knee, a symbol of honouring victims of police violence.
Police said that they would not enforce either the one-metre rule or the rule limiting gatherings to 50 people. 
“The police and society at large value freedom of speech, so the police will not do anything against the fact that there is a larger crowd gathered here now,” police chief Svein Arild Jørundland told NRK.
At 3.30 in the afternoon, around 150 to 200 protesters gathered outside the US embassy on Oslo west, and an hour later the crowd had swelled into the thousands. 
You can see a live stream of the event below: 

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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.