'Cancel Christmas parties': Oslo extends city’s Covid-19 restrictions
The Oslo city government has extended local coronavirus restrictions and advised businesses not to go ahead with their traditional Christmas parties.
Eighty people tested positive for Covid-19 in Oslo on Wednesday, and 69 on Thursday according to municipal figures. Daily cases in the capital have generally remained between 40 and 50 since late September.
The city introduced local measures at the end of last month to reduce infections in the area.
This means Oslo already has stricter rules than the rest of the country, including a ban on public gatherings of over 10 people. The national rules stipulate a maximum of 20 people for such gatherings.
Although the government will ease national restrictions in October, measures put in place by local authorities will take precedence over the national rules. That means the end of the ban on bars serving alcohol after midnight will not apply in Oslo.
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The restrictions in Oslo are now to be extended until further notice.
“Thirty percent of infections in Oslo are of unknown origin. That makes it risky to allow more people to go out and meet,” Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen said in a briefing reported by media including VG.
“We have evaluated the (national) easing of restrictions thoroughly against our local infections situation. The conclusion is clear: we must have stricter rules in Oslo than the rest of the country, at the moment,” Johansen said.
Although Prime Minister Erna Solberg earlier this week encouraged businesses to go ahead with the traditional julebord (Christmas party) for staff, that advice can not apply to Oslo with the current infection situation, the mayor said according to VG.
Norwegians traditionally attend julebord Christmas parties organised every year to celebrate that the holidays are approaching. Most workplaces throw a julebord for their staff, and these events are notoriously packed with what later becomes office gossip, but friends and families also organise them in private.
The popular and often chaotic Christmas festivity involves lots of eating traditional Norwegian Christmas food and getting drunk on liquors such as Akevitt (Akvavit) a few weeks before the actual Christmas.
But Johansen advised against such activities in Oslo this year, provided the current level of Covid-19 infections remains the same.
Julebord normally take place in early December although any time during the month is fine, while November is considered too early.
“We must not bend the rules and gather as many people as possible within the allowed limit. When we introduced the rule limiting gatherings to 10 people a lot of people asked, ‘could my gathering be okay?’,” he said.
“We have to change the way we think about people,” the mayor said.
“That means as few private gatherings possible, as few children’s birthday parties as possible. I know it’s hard, but we want to avoid closing daycare and schools at all costs,” he said.