‘Step by step’: Norway unveils four-step plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions

'Step by step': Norway unveils four-step plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions
Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)
Prime Minister Erna Solberg presented her four-step plan for easing coronavirus restrictions to parliament on Wednesday.

The plan, which has no specified dates for lifting restrictions, provides for the use of ‘coronavirus certificates’ and prioritises young people and the economy, Solberg said.

“We will do this step by step and in a controlled manner. Once we have opened up one step, we will generally wait for three weeks before moving onto the next step. When we see that it is safe, and the infection does not increase again, we will move on to the next step in the plan,” the PM said as she addressed parliament.

She added that she would not provide any set dates for reopening.

“The pace of the reopening of Norway must be based on data, not dates,” she said.

The prime minister also said uncertainties such as vaccine deliveries and virus variants were a factor in the decision to prioritise data over dates. The government will instead use three checkpoints before taking a next step:

  1. Infection situation and infection rates
  2. Capacity within the health service
  3. Vaccination

‘Corona certificates’ 

In addition to the four-step plan, Solberg also announced that those who have been vaccinated or have immunity to Covid-19 will soon be able to obtain a ‘corona certificate’.

“We must consider how such a certificate can be best used nationally in connection with the reopening. A corona certificate opens up opportunities, but at the same time offers challenges and dilemmas. The government’s ambition is to land a solution for such a certificate within a reasonable time,” she said.

READ MORE: Norway to use ‘coronavirus certificates’ in reopening plan

Four steps

Based on health authority advice, the government has adopted a plan for four reopening steps.

The first step of reopening begins when the epidemic is under control and infection rates and hospitalisations must be stable and at a low level for about three weeks.

The deputy director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, Espen Nakstad, previously said Norway would not beginning reopening until cases were under 200 a day. 

Step one will see a return to the measures in place before March 25th.

These include:

  • Up to five guests in private homes
  • Events that only bring people together from the same municipality can be carried out
  • Alcohol only to be served until 10pm in restaurants, bars and cafes with the requirement to order food in order to be able to consume alcohol
  • Social distancing is one metre
  • Up to 100 people at indoor events in settings with designated seating, such as restaurants.
  • Up to 200 people at outdoor events if there is fixed seating.

Step two may begin in the second half of May, according to Solberg, and includes:

  • More in-person teaching at universities and colleges
  • 10 guests allowed to visit homes
  • Alcohol to be served until midnight and the requirement for people to order food with alcohol removed
  • 200 people at indoor events with fixed designated seating
  • Children and young people to be able to participate in events and organised training, indoors a limit of 100 people
  • For adults in grass roots sport, organised training with a limit if 20 people can take place
  • Domestic travel can be completed, rules for travel abroad will remain the same
  • Opening of entry for family visits from abroad, will consider entry for partners and grandparents
  • Business travel can resume

If infections remain stable, then step three can take place.

  • 20 guests can now visit, 50 people can meet at private events in rented premises
  • For public events, separate assessments will be made that are linked to rapid tests and corona certificates
  • Working from home will still be encouraged
  • Grass roots sports for adults will open up for games and competition
  • Travel abroad will be allowed, but with continued requirements for testing and quarantine. Government will consider how corona passports can be used
  • Travel will open up for labor immigration
  • Top athletes can now engage in normal sports activity
  • Normal times for serving alcohol, social distancing and registration will remain

Step 4:

  • Many things will be ‘almost normal’ but there will be requirements for infection control measures, distancing and to isolate when you are ill. Working from home may still be required.
  • There will still be limits on numbers at large public events and grass roots sports and leisure activities. Travel restrictions may still apply. There may still be requirements for testing and quarantine in certain areas.

Schools

As part of the reopening, the government will introduce mass testing of school children. Initially, this will only include secondary and high schools.

“This will lead to us being able to keep the schools open and avoid the red level in the future”, Solberg said according to newspaper Aftenposten.

Festivals

The prime minister also said that it was too early to decide if the May 17th celebrations in Norway could go ahead. May 17th in Norway is constitution day and is the national day. It is a public holiday and there are normally large parades and festivals and many dress in their national costumes.

She said the government would provide updated advice on May 17th celebrations later in April.

“As for the framework for festivals, concerts and other events throughout the summer, the government will return to this in early May”, she said.

Current restrictions

Following the Easter holiday, current national measures have been extended until April 14th. Solberg has said that the government will consider whether some or all of these measures could soon be lifted.

That will depend on data on infection rates over the Easter holidays.


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