***Editor's note January 26th: current Covid-19 restrictions are subject to change. Read here for changes to alcohol sales rules and here for local restrictions in the Oslo area announced following the publication of this article.
Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg presented the new measures in a parliamentary brief on Monday.
The changes, which come into force on Wednesday January 20th, include easing the particularly strict restrictions implemented on January 4th in order to prevent increased transmission after the festive season.
Solberg warned however that other restrictions would likely have to remain in place until the summer.
The PM had previously stated that several measures would be lifted if the transmission of the Covid-19 virus subsided.
In January, the share of people who have tested positive for the virus steadily decreased from 4.3 percent on January 1st to 1.1 on January 14th, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).
Some 58,651 people in Norway have been diagnosed with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Of these, 521 have died. 2,359 people with the virus are currently receiving treatment in hospital.
Here's what you need to know about what changes and what doesn't.
People in Norway are still advised against domestic and international travel.
The government is prioritising reducing restrictions in schools for example children and young people are again permitted to participate in after-school activities and sports.
“We have chosen to prioritise children and young people,” Solberg said in the parliamentary session.
The advice against receiving guests in your own home will be lifted.
But people are still advised against receiving more than five guests. The limit on the number of people that may attend private gatherings inside is also increased from five to ten. Up to 20 people may attend private gatherings outside.
A maximum of 200 people may attend events indoors as long as all the chairs are secured to the floor. The limit will be 600 for outdoors events.
Ban on serving alcohol
Notably, the ban against serving alcohol will stay in place.
“We know that workers in places that serve alcohol are disproportionately exposed to Covid-19,” the PM said. She also referred to a new Danish study, which found that pubs contribute to transmitting the virus.
The alcohol-ban (skjenkeforbudet) has been the subject of fierce discussion and critique, and many pubs and restaurants have warned that they will go bankrupt if they are not allowed to sell alcohol.
Solberg acknowledged the challenging situation.
“This entails lost revenue and more temporary layoffs,” she said, “while other people are deprived of a place to gather socially.”
The government is set to review the alcohol-ban next week.
Stay-at-home order an option
The PM also warned that restrictions may be tightened if virus transmissions start increasing again. One of the possible measures Solberg did not want to rule out are stay-at-home orders.
“Nobody wants a stay-at-home order, but if the transmission rates run wild, and pose a threat to lives and people’s health, it may be our only remaining option,” she told parliament.
A proposal allowing stay-at-home orders to be imposed was sent to the Norwegian parliament for consultation by the Ministry of Justice January 8th.
The Norwegian institute of Public Health has strongly opposed confining people to their homes. The institute believe a stay-at-home order may be ineffective and a potential violation of human rights.
Six more months
And Norwegians should expect tough restrictions to continue in the coming months.
Prime Minister Solberg warned that measures to curb the transmission of the virus are expected to last at least until the summer, and perhaps even longer.
At the same parliamentary briefing, Minister of Health Bent Høie said he believes all adults above the age of 18 will be offered a vaccine by the summer.
“We believe this will entail that about 70 percent of all adults will have said yes to being vaccinated,” he said. “In a best-case scenario, this may be the case by June.”
Almost 49,000 people had received their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine Sunday, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. This is over twice as many as Sunday January 10th, when 22,000 people had been inoculated with the first dose.
Norway is initially offering vaccines to elderly residents in care homes with other illnesses.