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CHRISTMAS

Norway to ease coronavirus restrictions for two Christmas days

Authorities in Norway are to slightly ease limits on social gatherings to make it easier for families to be together at Christmas.

Norway to ease coronavirus restrictions for two Christmas days
Norwegian PM Erna Solberg. File photo: AFP

Current coronavirus restrictions in the Nordic country limit households to no more than five outside guests at private gatherings.

That will be extended to ten people over two days at Christmas. Families are to be given free choice over the two days on which they decide to use the provision, NRK reports.

In announcing the easing of restrictions for Christmas, the government emphasised the importance of social distancing.

Although households are currently allowed to invite a maximum of five guests into their home, people must stay one metre apart from each other. That will remain the case on the days when up to ten guests attend.

“You'll have to improvise and maybe extend the table a bit this year,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told reporters.

“We will retain the rule of up to five guests, but for two of the days we will allow up to ten guests. For example on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve,” Solberg also said.

The PM noted that these changes would apply to national restrictions, and that local authorities can have stricter rules in place, which would take precedence over the national ones.

Solberg also called for members of the public to continue to limit social contacts during the festive season.

“It shouldn’t be that you have five new guests every day and ten new and different guests on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve,” she said.

Neither domestic nor foreign travel is advised, and most of those who do go abroad must quarantine on their return to Norway.

READ ALSO: What are Norway's coronavirus 'quarantine hotels' and who is obliged to stay at them?

While the country has not imposed a new lockdown like many other European countries, strict curbs are in place until December 16th.

The city of Oslo has in addition banned alcohol sales in bars and restaurants, causing many establishments to close.

The Scandinavian country has one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in Europe. As of Wednesday, it had reported 36,591 cases and 351 deaths.

READ ALSO: How Norway's Christmas traditions could be affected by Covid-19 pandemic

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CHRISTMAS

Could Christmas in Norway be affected by new Covid-19 measures?

Norway’s government has in the last two days announced tightened rules relating to Covid-19 isolation and face masks. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre sought to reassure the public over plans for the Christmas holidays.

Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th.
Norway's PM Jonas Gahr Støre expects the country's residents to be able to celebrate Christmas normally but cannot rule out new Covid-19 measures before December 24th. Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

The government on Tuesday announced new measures relating to quarantine rules for confirmed Covid-19 cases and face mask guidelines.

The measures, which are being introduced in response to increasing infection numbers, include more stringent isolation rules, face mask recommendations and a push to vaccinate over 65s with booster jabs as soon as possible.

“On one side, we must avoid full hospitals and strain on the health system. On the other side we must live as normally as possible. We must keep finding the right balance in the measures,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

Tighter quarantine rules for suspected cases with the new Omicron variant were meanwhile launched on Monday. People who test positive for or are believed to be infected with the Omicron variant will need to isolate for longer than others with the virus.

READ ALSO:

In comments during a briefing to press on Tuesday, Støre sought to reassure the public over plans to spend Christmas with loved ones.

“The measures we have introduced are settings that make it possible to celebrate a good Christmas while keeping in mind what you can do with your loved ones,” the PM said in comments reported by newspaper VG.

“We can plan to be with our families at Christmas,” he added.

Last year saw Christmas in Norway significantly impacted by restrictions on the number of people who could meet and mixing between households.

Such far-reaching restrictions are not expected in 2021. Støre did not however rule out additional measures being introduced before December 24th.

“What we have presented today is based on the knowledge we already have,” he said.

“It is the total restrictions that count. If we are in the same situation (as now) when we get to December 24th, you can celebrate Christmas normally,” Støre said, but noted the virus would be present throughout the winter.

The aim of any measures is to keep the pandemic under control throughout the winter, he added.

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