Norway waits on introduction of new national Covid-19 restrictions

The government will not announce new national coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday but has said strict central interventions could come into play if local responses to increased infection rates do not control outbreaks.

Norway waits on introduction of new national Covid-19 restrictions
File photo: Pierre-Henry DESHAYES / AFP

“I am asking everyone to prepare themselves” for the possibility of new national restrictions, Prime Minister Erna Solberg told parliament.

Solberg also asked for people who live in Norway not to travel outside of the country and called for Norwegians who live abroad not to return home during the Easter holidays.

The government had been widely expected to confirm new restrictions on Tuesday after previously stating it was awaiting health authority recommendations.

Instead Solberg presented an outline of the restrictions that can be brought into effect if current infection rates do not decline in the short term. She also gave local medical authorities increased powers to respond to increasing infections by implementing measures locally.

“If we are successful together in slowing down infections with local and regional measures, we can avoid further reinforcement of national restrictions which would also impact areas with lower infection rates,” she said.

“But if the local, regional and national measures we have today do not prove to be enough to bring infections down, we will have to introduce stricter national measures,” she continued.

“In the last few weeks, numbers have again pointed upwards and the more infectious variants are beginning to take over as the dominant variant,” the prime minister said.

The following measures could be introduced nationally – but will not be immediately introduced as of Tuesday.

  • Recommended one-metre social distance increased to two metres
  • Limit of 10 private contacts per week
  • A maximum of 20 people at indoor events with fixed seating
  • A maximum of 50 people at funerals
  • A maximum of 50 people at outdoor events
  • Ban on indoor leisure activities for adults
  • Gyms and swimming pools could close
  • National ban on serving alcohol
  • Closure of amusement parks, bingo halls and similar
  • Requirement to work from home

If these measures do not have the desired effect, the following more stringent restrictions can be considered, according to NRK:

  • Two-week ban on guests in private homes
  • Postponement of all events
  • ‘Red’ alert level at schools and education institutions, meaning the highest level of anti-infection precautions
  • Online classes at universities
  • ‘Red’ level at junior schools and kindergartens in areas with high infection rates

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Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany