Norway extends coronavirus restrictions by three weeks

Norway extends coronavirus restrictions by three weeks
A file photo of Norwegian PM Erna Solberg. Photo: AFP
Norway’s government has extended coronavirus restrictions by three weeks, but says it aims for the country’s Christmas celebrations to be as normal as possible.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that national infection rates were now on the way down, but restrictions remained necessary for at least another three weeks.

“We need more time, and we need to see a clear downward trend in infections before we consider opening. We must therefore live with the measures we have for three more weeks,” Solberg said in comments reported by media including NRK.

The current measures, announced on November 5th, encourage people in Norway to stay home as much as possible and reduce social contact.

READ ALSO: Norway’s coronavirus measures: Here are the details to know

In addition to the extension of national measures, the government has asked city and regional authorities to intervene with local measures in areas with higher infection rates.

Both Oslo and Bergen, along with their outlying regions, currently have local restrictions in place which are tighter than the national measures. Both cities have begun to see an improvement in their infections numbers though they remain relatively high, NRK writes.

READ ALSO: Why there is cause for optimism after Oslo’s two weeks of 'social isolation'

The three-week extension will bring the virus situation to a more manageable level once the period expires, according to the government.

Details of measures for the Christmas and New Year period will be announced next week, Solberg said.

“We hope we can ease restrictions when we get closer to Christmas. We will have to see how it goes. There’s no space for large Christmas gatherings right now,” the PM said.

Even though restrictions could yet be eased, Norway will have a different Christmas to usual, she admitted.

“We must meet with fewer people than we usually do at Christmas. We must continue to follow infection guidelines. But the most important thing is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

“To be able to travel home to family and see elderly parents has a high value. It’s good to concentrate on what’s most important. Not visiting all your old classmates,” she said.

Solberg hopes that Norway can begin a vaccination programme in January for high priority groups, VG reports.

Data from national health authority NIPH suggests Norway is flattening its infection trend on a national level. An NIPH report  for last week puts the national reproduction rate, also known as R-number, at 1.0. If the reproduction rate is above 1.0, that means the number of infected in a society will grow. If it is slightly below, the number will decline. 

Last week was also the first this autumn in which the total number of new infections was lower than in the preceding week. However, the total number of people seeking tests has also dropped.


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