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ALCOHOL

Could coronavirus crisis make alcohol cheaper in Norway?

Norway is known for having some of the highest prices in the world for beer and wine, but the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could have a knock-on effect of making such products cheaper.

Could coronavirus crisis make alcohol cheaper in Norway?
Photo: Celina Albertz on Unsplash

That is because the Conservative (Høyre) party, the senior party in the coalition government, could be set to favour reducing special levies on products containing alcohol and sugar.

The party’s programme committee unanimously supports such a move, newspaper VG reported on Sunday.

Such a move would increase sales of alcohol and sugar-based products in Norway by making ‘border shopping’ less attractive, the party’s committee has argued.

“We’ve been quite restrictive about this in the Conservative party, but I think that the situation is now so different and if you weigh up jobs against other questions, jobs weigh more,” Minister of Regional Development and Digitalisation Linda Hofstad Helleland, who chairs the programme committee, said to VG.

The committee, which is currently thrashing out the Conservative party platform for the next parliamentary period, wants to cut special levies applied to products which tempt hundreds of thousands of Norwegians over the border to Swedish stores annually.

The sugar tax, which applies to sugar imported into Norway or produced in Norway, is currently set at 8.20 kroner per applicable kilogram of sugar products, the country’s tax authority website states.

Extra tax is also applied to alcoholic beverages of over 0.7 percent alcohol by volume. The tax applies to imported and domestically-produced products. There are also taxes on packaging. The 2020 levies vary from 3.51 kroner per litre to 22.83 kroner per litre, depending on the alcohol volume percent.

The taxes have previously been justified by the government on the basis that they increase state revenues and also help to promote healthy consumption amongst Norwegians. But the volume of consumer spending in Swedish border stores has also been a concern for lawmakers.

Reductions to the taxes would initially apply to beer, wine and sugar products, but not to tobacco products, according to VG’s report.

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The Conservative party has previously advocated the levies, but Helleland said that the coronavirus crisis had resulted in the programme committee changing its view.

Border shopping decreased by 99 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019, as Norway closed its frontiers in a measure to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic in the spring.

As such, only 28 million Norwegian kroner were spent in Sweden in the second quarter of this year, compared to 4.1 billion kroner in 2019’s second quarter, NTB reports.

Helleand said that labour from sectors which had been hit hard by the economic fallouts of coronavirus – such as the travel sector, in which many unskilled workers are employed – could find new jobs in the consumer sector if it was to receive a boost.

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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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