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VACCINE

UPDATE: Norway agrees to regional Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation in change of strategy

Norway’s government is to follow advice issued by the country’s health authority by switching to a regional prioritisation for distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

UPDATE: Norway agrees to regional Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation in change of strategy
Illustration photo: Luis ROBAYO / AFP

Health minister Bent Høie confirmed at a briefing on Tuesday that the country would shift its strategy in line with recommendations earlier issued by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

As such, municipalities and neighbourhoods with high infection rates will receive vaccine supplies earlier than other parts of country where the number of cases of Covid-19 is low.

Areas likely to be prioritised highly under the new plan include neighbourhoods in capital Oslo and several municipalities in the east of the country, broadcaster NRK reports.

Earlier on Tuesday, NIPH recommended taking around 3 percent of vaccine doses from around 330 neighbourhoods and municipalities with low infection and hospitalisation numbers and using them to boost supply in parts of Oslo, eastern municipality Lørenskog and other municipalities in the eastern region.

READ ALSO: Covid-19: Municipalities in Oslo region to tighten restrictions

“The government believes that distribution of vaccines is a very technical question and we place a lot of weight on NIPH’s recommendation. We are therefore now asking them to begin work on a moderate geographical redistribution,” Høie said.

The redistribution is expected to take effect by the middle of March in order to prevent second doses being disrupted. NIPH is also required to ensure it has a legal basis for the redistribution, according to NRK.

The health authority recommended the government change the national vaccination strategy for the coronavirus soon, Norwegian media including VG reported.

The recommendation is based on mathematical modelling and strategies which shows the outcomes and effects of unequal geographical prioritisation and NIPH now believes the situation with the virus in Norway calls for the change in strategy.

“In summary, we believe that there are more arguments in favour of a geographical targeting with distribution of vaccines over a period of time, and the Institute of Public Health therefore recommends a change to the vaccine strategy which reflects this,” NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg said in the recommendation, which was published at 12pm on Tuesday.

Vaccines have so far been distributed evenly between regions. Capital city Oslo has had a higher R-number or reproduction rate than other parts of the country throughout much of the Covid-19 epidemic in Norway.

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

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OSLO

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

Shopping 

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. 

Hospitality 

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. 

Schools 

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

Work

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. 

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