Why have the restrictions been brought in?
Norway is currently in its third wave of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The new restrictions come as the country registers record numbers of new daily infections and hospitals are treating as many Covid-19 inpatients as they did during the peak of the first wave in Spring 2020.
While Covid-19 infection levels haven’t yet reached the numbers that health authorities feared they would, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the Norwegian Directorate of Health recommended the government introduce new measures for Easter because evidence has shown them that infection increases when people are on holiday.
“It has been shown that the infection spreads when it is holiday time in Norway. We have seen this at Christmas, during the winter holidays, last summer and also during the autumn holidays,” Director at NIPH Camilla Stoltenberg told broadcaster NRK.
Påkseferie, or Easter holiday, in Norway sees many travel to see friends and family, visit ski resorts and stay at their holiday homes and cabins.
What are the measures?
The government announced a combination of restrictions, which are regulated by law, and recommendations, which are not. The new measures are a lot stricter than the previous guidelines for Easter 2021. Here is an overview of the measures.
Unlike last year there isn’t a ban on cabin trips, however it is recommended that you must only travel to your cabin with your household. Students are allowed to travel to their family home.
If you come from an area with high levels of infection you are recommended not to have any guests at all, or to stay overnight away from their own homes. The exception to this is people living alone and children under 20.
It is also recommended that people avoid all unnecessary travel within Norway over the Easter holidays. Those arriving in Norway from abroad will have to stay at a quarantine hotel unless the journey was essential.
Amusement parks, bingo halls and similar attractions will all be closed over Easter.
“The most important thing at Easter is that we travel as little as possible, and meet as few as possible, to prevent the infection from spreading,” health minister Bent Høie said at a government press conference.
The government has set a recommendation of a maximum of two guests to be invited to private homes and people living in high infection regions are asked not to have any guests at all, or to stay overnight away from their own homes
Winter sports are a big part of Easter in Norway with many going on trips to the slopes, cross country skiing or ski touring. This will still be the case this year too. Ski lifts will remain open. Up to 20 people can meet outdoors and 2 meters social distancing will have to be observed.
Hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes
All business in Norway, bar the state-owned wine monopolies, are now prohibited from serving any alcohol.
Bars, restaurants, hotels and cafes are allowed to stay open in places where tighter measures, such as those in place in Oslo, don’t apply. Customers will have to observe a two meter social distancing rule.
The new restrictions are expected to hit the hospitality industry particularly hard.
Stoltenberg told NRK that she understands the hospitality industry are upset at the new measures but that they are necessary.
“These measures affect companies, and they affect the economy, but it is serious now. We have an increase in the number of infected, hospitalised people who are in intensive care. We are dealing with a variant (B117) that is more contagious and more dangerous”, she said.
When will the measures be lifted?
The measures are in place until April 12th where they will then be reviewed.
The government previously planned to reveal its strategy for easing restrictions in March but Health Minister Bent Høie said they would instead be revealed over Easter.
Stoltenberg hopes that the measures can be eased in May, provided infections fall.
“We need to see that the number of new infections decreases, and that it decreases in the areas that are hardest hit, in Oslo and Viken in particular. And we need to see that we manage to maintain testing and preferably we need to see a downturn when it comes to the number that are seriously ill,” she said.