Norway to allow alcohol sales as it starts lifting virus curbs
Norway will again allow restaurants and bars to serve alcohol as part of a gradual easing of coronavirus restrictions, the government said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg said at a government press conference that phase one of Norway's reopening plan will begin on April 16th.
"We are launching the reopening of large parts of Norway this week," Solberg said at a briefing.
The Nordic country tightened restrictions in late March, including banning the sale of alcohol for restaurants and bars, in response to a surge in cases driven by more contagious Covid-19 variants.
Since the Easter holiday, during which many travel to visit family, had not seemed to worsen the situation, the government said it would start reversing the measures.
Stage 1 of the reopening plan means, among other things, the ban of alcohol being consumed in hospitality settings will be lifted and people may have a maximum of five guests at their home.
Measures will not be reversed in areas with high infection rates.
"This relief (relaxing of measures) that we will be doing at the national level will not apply to areas where the infection is highest," Solberg said.
The decision to begin the first stage of the reopening plan was based on a recommendation from the Norwegian Directorate of Health.
“It is necessary to continue national measures in the future, but it is now possible to phase out the measures that were introduced before the Easter holidays;” the Norwegian Directorate of Health said in a report.
The authority also recommended that regional and local measures in areas with high rates of infection, such as Oslo and Viken, also continue while stage 1 of the plan is implemented.
“The national measures should therefore be established as stage 1, at the same time geographical differentiation of measures is carried out using local and regional rules,” the report said.
Solberg unveiled a four-stage plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions on April 7th, but remained elusive on exact dates for when life could return to a more normal situation, only hinting that the end of June seemed likely.
However, this is largely dependent on the rollout of vaccines.
These are the requirements and recommendations that will be in place when stage 1 is introduced on April 16th:
- Recommended social distancing is reduced from two to one metres.
- People should continue to limit social contact. The government encourages people to meet outdoors and not have more than five guests at home. If all the guests are from the same household, you can have several guests, but it must be possible to keep a sufficient distance.
- Children in kindergartens and primary schools can have visits from their own cohort (class).
- Alcohol may be served until 10pm as part of food orders.
- Events that gather people from several municipalities should be postponed or canceled.
- At private gatherings outside one's own home, for example in rented or borrowed premises, ten people are allowed indoors. Outdoors, up to 20 people are allowed.
- Public events can gather up to 100 people indoors when everyone in the audience is sitting in fixed, designated places.
- At public events that take place indoors, but which do not have permanent, allocated seats, it is possible to gather a maximum of ten people. Exceptions are made for sports and cultural events for people under the age of 20, where everyone is from the same municipality. At those events up to 50 people are allowed.
- Outdoors, up to 200 people can gather at public events.
- If everyone is sitting in fixed, designated places, and there is a distance of two meters between sections, it will be possible to gather 600 people in three sections, for example in a football stadium.
- The government advises against unnecessary domestic travel.
- The government also maintains its advice to avoid travel abroad unless the trip is strictly necessary.
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The report also highlighted that the strict measures introduced for Easter appeared to have had the desired affect of retaining control over infections. Assistant director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health Espen Nakstad earlier said cases hadn’t risen sharply over Easter.
The directorate also said that Norway has not yet vaccinated enough people for immunity to impact national measures.
Vaccination is one of the three key criteria the prime minister outlined when presenting her plan, which she said would be based on data rather than dates. The other criteria are capacity in the health service and the infection situation.
An average of 226 infections have been registered have been registered in the past two weeks, according to numbers from NIPH. Previously, Nakstad said that infection numbers should be below 200 before Norway could contemplate reopening.