Senior Norway health official expects ‘hardest two months’ of pandemic

March and April could be the most challenging months of the Covid-19 pandemic in Norway so far, a senior official from the Directorate of Health has said.

Senior Norway health official expects 'hardest two months' of pandemic
Illustration photo: AFP

Mutated variants of the coronavirus may make it difficult for schools and kindergartens to stay open, Assistant Director Espen Rostrup Nakstad at the Norwegian Directorate of Health told broadcaster NRK.

“March and April could be the hardest in the whole pandemic because of the risk of a third wave with a mutated virus,” Nakstad told the broadcaster.

READ ALSO: Several cases of new Covid-19 variant detected in Norway

Authorities in Norway are closely following developments in neighbouring Denmark and Sweden, where more infectious variants are adding quickly, he said.

The B117 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, now constitutes around half of new cases in Denmark, according to recent data from health authorities in from the country, which has maintained falling hospitalisation numbers and has a national lockdown in place.

“If we follow the development in Denmark, more infectious virus variants will be in the majority in around a month. That will significantly affect the reproduction rate so that we will see more people getting infected than before,” Nakstad said to NRK.

“That will make it significantly harder to control infection spread in Norway without significantly tightening restrictions,” he added.

Some restrictions were eased in Oslo this week, with schools now at the ‘amber’ level of the national traffic light model. This means pupils will be able to receive more physical teaching.

But the emergence of mutations could make it difficult to maintain school openings, according to Nakstad.

“A classroom can quickly become a place where not just 1-2 students get infected with the old variant, but a whole class quickly gets infected, if the new variant spreads,” he said.

A number of outbreaks at Oslo schools and kindergartens are suspected to be linked to mutated variants, NRK reports.

The largest kindergarten in Norway – Oslo’s Margarinfabrikken – is currently closed due to an outbreak.

While Norway is vaccination its population, the vaccination programme is not likely to prevent the spread of infections in the immediate months, according to Nakstad.

“The problem the next two months is that a quite small part of the population has been vaccinated, and those who have been vaccinated are in groups which do contribute significantly to spreading infections,” the Directorate of Health Assistant Director said to NRK.

“The consequence of increased infections at the current time could therefore contribute to many new hospitalisations and deaths in the age group up to 75 years,” he added.

READ ALSO: When can you expect to get the Covid-19 vaccine in Norway?

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EXPLAINED: What Oslo’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you

Most, but not all, of the Norwegian capital's local Covid restrictions have been lifted to fall in line with national coronavirus rules, with new limits on guests at home and new guidance on face masks. Here’s a rundown of what the latest restrictions mean for you.

EXPLAINED: What Oslo's easing of Covid-19 restrictions means for you
Oslo's skyline. Photo by Oscar Daniel Rangel on Unsplash

Covid-19 measures in Oslo have been relaxed, with the majority of local restrictions being replaced with the looser national rules.

The new rules are a mix of steps three and four of the city’s five-step reopening plan and were introduced after the lowest infection numbers since last autumn were recorded in Oslo last week. 

Last week, 239 coronavirus infections were registered in the Norwegian capital. 

“The gradual, controlled opening of Oslo has been a success. Many of the rules that the people of Oslo have been expected to live with are now being removed, and we will essentially live with the same corona rules as people elsewhere in Norway,” Oslo’s Executive Mayor Raymond Johansen said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Not all local restrictions have been lifted however, meaning there are a mix of local and national rules in place. 

Below we’ll take a look at how the measures will affect everyday life in Oslo. 

At home 

The significant change here is that the ban on having more than ten people gathered at home has been lifted completely. Instead, this will be replaced with the national recommendation not to have more than guests. 

So while it will not be recommended to have more than ten guests, it’s not an enforceable rule anymore. 

READ MORE: What happens if you get caught breaking the Covid-19 rules in Norway


The local rules for shopping malls and stores have been tweaked too. There will no longer be any rule that makes face masks mandatory in shops. In addition to this, the official social distancing measure has been halved, to one metre, and the limit on the number of people allowed in shops has been scrapped. 

However, it’s worth noting that some shops may wish to keep some infection control measures in place if they feel it helps keep staff and shoppers safe, so it may be worth bringing a mask along on your next trip to the shops just in case.

Face masks  

The rule on mandatory face masks in public has also been given the axe, with two exceptions. 

You will still need one if you are taking public transport or taking a taxi. 

Masks will no longer be needed in shops, gyms, museums and galleries, indoor swimming pools, spa facilities and hotel facilities such as pools and dining areas. 

Although, some places may still wish to continue with a mask policy, so always remember to have one handy to be sure. 


At indoor public places, such as restaurants, 50 people are allowed in venues without fixed assigned seats and 200 people at events with set, assigned seats.

Outdoors, 200 people can gather in cohorts of three, meaning a potential venue of 600 for places with the space and capacity and where there is fixed designated seating.

Soon, when the government changes its rules for events, up to 5,000 people will be able to gather when there is a seating plan in place, provided venues aren’t operating above 50 percent capacity.  

Up to 20 people can book a table at a restaurant or bar when indoors and 30 people outdoors. 

Alcohol will now be able to be served until midnight rather than 10 pm, and this rule will stay in place until July 4th. The cut-off point will remain in place even if national rules change and allow alcohol to be served later. 

Sports, leisure and entertainment 

Bingo halls, bowling alleys, arcades, playgrounds can now reopen.

Oslo’s numbers cap on the people allowed in gyms, museums, galleries, and indoor pools has been lifted. 

Now, 20 people can work out, go for a swim, or take in some art indoors, and up to 30 can do so outdoors. 


Restrictions for schools and kindergartens haven’t changed, however. 

This means that schools and kindergartens in Oslo will remain at yellow level. 

Yellow level means that full class sizes are allowed, but mixing between classes must be kept to a minimum. Yellow level also means increased cleaning and hygiene measures are also in place. 

You can read more about yellow level here

Adult education and university are at red level, which means digital learning where possible and minimal contact between students and teachers. 

You can read more on red level here


People are still required to work from home where possible until July 4th. 

Executive mayor Johansen has previously said the home office would be one of the last pandemic measures to go, meaning it could be here for a while longer.