The restrictions impact the whole of Viken county, which is located in eastern Norway and includes the country’s capital Oslo, as well as Fredrikstad, Asker and Drammen. The county is made up of 51 municipalities in total and is home to 1.2 million people.
Why have the restrictions been brought in?
According to Norway’s Health Minister Bent Høie, 82 percent of the coronavirus infections in the whole of Norway are in Oslo, Viken or Vestfold county. On Tuesday Oslo recorded a record high 367 cases of coronavirus.
“There is a sharp increase in infection in Viken,” Høie said at a press conference on Monday. “Testing and infection tracking in these municipalities is under great pressure.”
He added that Viken county has seen a rise in the more contagious variant first detected in the UK.
The decision to introduce stricter measures was based on advice from the Norwegian Directorate of Heath and the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH). The majority of municipalities in Viken were in favour of tougher measures, while 13 of the 51 were not.
“We have never before seen such a high level of recorded cases,” said the capital’s mayor Raymond Johansen. “If the spread of the virus is too high for too long the system collapses and you lose control,” he added.
Although Viken county contains rural municipalities where infection levels are fairly low the health minister said it was important to have the same set of rules across the whole county to reduce mobility and make the rules easier to understand.
The hope is that these measures will help to combat the spread of the virus over the Easter holiday period when many in Norway, travel to their cabins, go on ski vacations and visit family.
What are the measures
The government is introducing Measure Level A, one of its strictest set of measures. Here is an overview of the restrictions under Measurement A.
People must work from home if they can.
All shops must close with the exception of:
- Grocery stores.
- Outlets that sell pet food and other necessities for pets.
- State owned alcohol stores (vinmonpolet).
- One-on-one services such as hairdressers, dermatologists, tattoo artists, etc.
- Health care providers such as physiotherapists.
- Fuel stations.
- Building merchants.
- Stores that cater to the agriculture sector.
Restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels.
- All restaurants, cafes and bars must close, but takeaway orders are allowed.
- No alcohol can be sold in all restaurants, cafes, hotels or bars.
- Restaurants in hotels are allowed to serve food to guests staying at the hotel.
Under measure Level A the following places must also close:
- Swimming pills, water parks, spas and hotel pools.
- Religious venues, with the exception of funerals.
- Amusement parks, bingo halls, playgrounds, bowling alleys and similar places.
- Cinemas, theatres and other entertainment venues.
Schools, kindergartens, universities and colleges.
For schools yellow level of measures will be introduced in line with Norway’s traffic light scale on restrictions. Yellow level means that individual municipalities assess the situation themselves and take action.
On Monday Oslo announced that it was closing secondary schools and children would be taught remotely. Kindergartens will also be closed during the Easter holiday, except for the children of key workers.
In addition to this the premises at universities and colleges will be closed with teaching being done online.
Ski lifts can remain open in Viken; however, all events and organised sports activities are cancelled with the exception for those under the age of 20 in groups smaller than 10 all coming from the same municipality.
All events, excluding funerals and burials, are prohibited.
Furthermore, Measure A sees the introduction of further recommendations such as a minimum of two meters for social distancing. People must also wear masks where it is not possible to keep a distance of 1 meter. Children under 12 do not have to wear masks.
The government advises that everyone should avoid gatherings in their own home with exceptions made for necessary home visits for people in their last phase of life, those who live alone can have one visit or visit two others, and children can visit their kindergarten classmates.
People can also still travel to hotels and their cabins, but only, with people from their own household.
How long will these measures last?
These measures will be in place until at least April 11th. This means they will last until a week after the Easter vacations in Norway. They will then be reviewed on April 11th. There is however a possibility the measures could be extended after the review.