Despite an easing of restrictions being announced in Oslo just eleven days ago, Norway’s capital is back to tighter restrictions, after an announcement by the city’s council leader on Sunday evening.
Oslo has had various restrictions in place since 10th November. But last week saw a spike in infection rates.
551 new cases of the coronavirus were registered in Norway on Friday, the highest total since January 13th. Of those, 231 were detected in the capital city Oslo. This is the highest number of infections in one day in the capital since the pandemic started, according to broadcaster NRK.
“No one has taken greater responsibility than Oslo. No one has paid a higher price over time than the people of Oslo”, said city council leader Raymond Johansen at the press conference on Sunday. “I know that what I am asking for is a lot and it is intrusive.”
These are the new measures, which will apply from midnight on Tuesday 2nd March until Monday 15th March:
- All cafes and restaurants must be closed, except for takeaways.
- All shops must close, with the exception of, among other things, pharmacies, groceries and liquor stores.
- Galleries and art outlets must close.
- Organised leisure activities for adults over the age of 20 are not recommended.
- Outdoor events are prohibited.
- Red level in adult education and upper secondary school. High schools won’t be open on Monday or Tuesday of this week but offer digital tuition.
- Mass testing of upper secondary students with saliva samples will be introduced.
- People advised to avoid private gatherings and visits to private homes, with the exception of single people and young people in the same cohort.
- Oslo is introducing its own statutory rules for infection control on construction sites.
Mass testing of pupils
The upper secondary schools in Oslo have only been in the yellow level for two weeks before now going back to red.
It means that from Wednesday, all upper secondary schools will be run in a combination of physical attendance and digital teaching.
On top of this, mass testing of pupils in upper secondary schools will begin from 8th March. There will also be increased testing of teachers.
School councillor Inga Marte Thorkildsen said the infection in people aged 16–20 has increased fivefold in the last two weeks.
“We must take action quickly”, she said and added that other measures are also being considered.
“A sad day”
Council leader Raymond Johansen said “it is allowed to be a sad day”, regarding the new measures, but added that they have no choice.
Johansen also emphasised the need for more vaccines. “It’s not because we’re slow. We are dependent on getting more vaccines.”
The head of the health department with the city government, Robert Steen, said that during week 10 or 11 they will probably start vaccinating people aged 55-64 with mild underlying diseases.
“We hope the government changes strategy and prioritises the area with high infection over time”, Steen said.
On Sunday, 138 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Oslo. This is almost twice as many as the same day last week.
New analysis from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) on Saturday showed that the more infectious B117 variant, first detected in the U.K., now accounts for 50-70 per cent of the cases in Oslo, and just over 50 per cent of the cases in Viken in general.