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COVID-19

Norway in ‘third wave’ of coronavirus but no new national restrictions yet

Norway is currently in a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, health minister Bent Høie said at a briefing on Wednesday.

Norway in 'third wave' of coronavirus but no new national restrictions yet
Illustration photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

Høie spoke to media after a record 1,156 new cases of the virus were registered in the country’s latest daily update.

The figure is the highest recorded in a day in Norway since the beginning of the pandemic. It should be noted that testing was less widespread during the original wave in spring 2020.

“We are now setting records which none of us wanted to set and we are into a third wave,” Høie said at the briefing.

The more infectious B117 variant of the virus, first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant form in Norway. B117 is responsible for 72 percent of new infections currently, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). In Oslo, the proportion is as high as 82 percent.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about new restrictions in Oslo and Viken

Norway’s reproduction rate or R-number for the virus is now at 1.4, the NIPH weekly report states. That means 10 infected people will pass the virus on to an average of 14 others, enabling the epidemic to grow.

There are currently 226 hospital inpatients with Covid-19 in Norway, which is the highest number of hospitalisations since April 2020.

Despite the concerning numbers, Høie said that restrictions to control the virus will remain largely in the hands of local authorities for now.

“If we were to introduce stricter measures nationally now, they would be influenced by the parts of the country where infections are lower,” he said.

If there are many more outbreaks in more parts of the country, we have plans to introduce national measures,” the minister also said.

Authorities did advise travelling domestically during the forthcoming Easter holidays, however.

“We are approaching Easter and many want to know which guidelines apply. The general advice to avoid travelling – including domestically – will also apply at Easter,” head of the Norwegian Health Directorate Bjørn Guldvog said at the briefing.

At Wednesday’s briefing, Norwegian health officials also commented on the AstraZeneca vaccine. Norway is amongst a number of European countries to have suspended use of the vaccine.

READ ALSO: Norway can’t ‘confirm nor exclude’ AstraZeneca jab connection after another health worker dies

NIPH director Camilla Stoltenberg said that Norway is currently investigating whether there may be a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and serious incidences of blood clots in a small number of vaccinated people.

But the consequences of the investigation for Norway’s vaccination programme could be limited regardless of the outcome, Stoltenberg said.

“After the recently announced delays in deliveries of the (AstraZeneca) vaccines, a full stop of the vaccine would not be so decisive (for vaccinating the population on schedule). But it would need other suppliers to deliver as expected,” she said.

“Regardless of what the European Medicines Agency and the Norwegian Medicines Agency find out, NIPH, which is responsible for Norway’s vaccination programme, will conduct an independent assessment of whether we will retain this vaccine in our programme,” she added.

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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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