Norwegian capital Oslo, along with Bergen in the west of the country, both implemented strict new coronavirus restrictions this week to try to slow the spread of new cases of Covid-19 in the two cities.
In the former city’s case, a ‘social lockdown’, which came into effect from Tuesday, means the closure of a broad section of sports and culture facilities, assembly limitations, as well as a ban on serving alcohol at all times.
“The city of Oslo is now socially locked down. That means we as residents of Oslo must stay isolated as much as possible,” Oslo resident Martin Vangsnes, an actor and singer, explained in written comments to The Local.
Vangsnes said he did not initially find the city to have changed remarkably since the restrictions took effect at the beginning of this week.
“I haven’t found Oslo to be affected to such a great extent. The city is on its way into a winter period with a lot of natural self-isolation,” he wrote.
However, longer term changes had left their mark on the city, he observed.
“The biggest change the city has been through in recent weeks is residents’ good efforts to use face masks. Only four months ago it would have been unthinkable for everyone to sit with a face mask on public transportation,” he said.
“I think these restrictions have affected residents a lot. Residents take the measures seriously,” he added.
Another resident of the city said she thought its people had been good at showing consideration towards each other.
“I think people are very understanding and they are nice to each other, they pay attention to each other on the streets, in the shops and respect the regulations,” Antoaneta Hansteen, who works for the Norwegian Ministry of Culture, told The Local via email.
“In the grocery stores I see people waiting patiently behind me until I choose my salad or fruit. But some restaurants and coffee shops are now closed, so I’m afraid the city is getting more empty and isolated,” Hansteen said.
“I think we have to stand it until the situation gets better,” she added.
Both residents of Oslo commented on the uncertainty a lot of people were facing due to the closure or restriction of businesses.
“I have a stable job, so I’m lucky, even if I get pretty frustrated in my home office with no chance to go to the ‘real’ office or meet my colleagues in the real life. Everything is online now, which I think will make us more lonely in the long run,” Hansteen said.
“I feel really sorry for the cultural life which is severely affected and many artists have an extremely difficult time,” she noted.
“This situation is really demanding for a lot of people. Many have lost their jobs,” Vangsnes said, pointing out that many were lonely or had lost loved ones during the pandemic.
“That’s why I feel very lucky to have been able to live my life almost normally, I’ve been to the cinema, had dinner at restaurants with my partner and so on,” he said.
“Because I’m an actor and singer, I’ve lost a lot of work and income because of the corona pandemic. But I personally feel that the authorities have come forward and helped those of us who don’t have a steady income like there is in many sectors,” he said.
“I’ve had to take more jobs which aren’t related to my educational background,” he added.
Although Oslo, as well as western city Bergen, are under the strictest regulations, the increasing seriousness of the situation has not been ignored in other parts of the country, according to The Local Norway contributor Agnes Erickson.
“I live in Mandal which is the southernmost town of Norway and a population of around 16,000. There are very few cases of the coronavirus reported in this city at the moment but residents are still taking the new guidelines seriously,” Erickson said.
“In a way, it feels like some are taking it even more seriously than back in the spring. Not because they are avoiding an extended partial lockdown, but because they would hate to be the ones to start a ripple effect and cause an outbreak,” added Erickson, who moved from Oslo to Mandal in March – just as Norway shut down during the original Covid-19 outbreak.
Although not encompassed by the strict measures applied to Bergen and Oslo, the effects can also be felt in other parts of Norway, she said.
“The small town is even quieter than usual. Main walking streets are empty, and there's an eerie silence in the areas where it feels and looks like there should be life,” Erickson said.
“There seems to be a lot of local support and talk of supporting the small businesses that are struggling. Being new (and a foreigner) to this town, it's immensely comforting to hear how people look out for each other here,” she added.
Vangsnes said he felt it was important at the current time for people to listen to each other, as well as to the guidelines and restrictions announced by authorities.
“Listen to those who maybe need someone to talk to. I feel us Osloborgere have done that during this difficult time,” he said.