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Norway keeps Covid-19 restrictions in place for national day celebrations

Covid-19 restrictions remain in place during Norway's May 17th national day on Monday for the second year running.

Norway keeps Covid-19 restrictions in place for national day celebrations
A typical May 17th parade Hans Birger Nilsen Flickr

Nationally, parades of up to 200 people are allowed provided social distancing is observed. Restrictions in the capital Oslo are somewhat tighter, with public assembly limited at 10 people.

Local rules should be checked before heading out to any event.

Although coronavirus restrictions have not been eased for May 17th, the deputy director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health Espen Nakstad encouraged the country to enjoy its national day.

“Be considerate to others, avoid crowds and have a nice time,” Nakstad told newspaper VG.

The senior health official also stressed the importance of ensuring visiting family members have no symptoms and are not currently required to isolate.

Up to five people can be invited to celebrate at private homes or gardens, with vaccinated people not counting towards that total.

A family of more than five (from the same household) may be invited if there is enough space to social distance.

“Unvaccinated guests not from the same household should keep a one-meter distance,” Nakstad told VG.

Speaking last month, the Minister for Culture Abid Raja made it clear that restrictions would not eased for the sake of the annual celebration.
 
“I stand here again to say that the pandemic will mark the celebration of our national day this year as well,” Raja said. 
 
“Remember that not gathering is to show care for those you love, for the environment and society,” he added.
 
In general national measures applied on Monday unless there were stricter local measures in place. 
 
 
May 17th, or constitution day, commemorates the signing of Norway’s constitution in 1814. Many people like to meet friends and family, celebrate and have parties.
 
Normally marching bands and parades are also a big part of the day and everyone dresses in their national costume, or bunad. 
 
 
Nakstad earlier said some celebrations would still go ahead. 
 
“Those planning 17th May celebrations can use the infection control advice as a starting point for planning,” he told VG in April.
 
 
The following guidelines were issued ahead of May 17th. 
  • Where events are allowed, gatherings should be avoided across municipal boundaries, and that all planned events should take place locally
  • May 17th parades are covered by Covid-19 restrictions regarding events. If events are advised against or prohibited, then they shouldn’t take place 
  • If there is a risk that children’s parades, which are a big part of May 17th celebrations, will lead to a gathering of people, they should be cancelled. 
  • In areas where events are prohibited, marching bands will still be able to play for residents in announced pop-up performances 
  • Marching band practice ahead of May 17th must follow national and local advice.

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TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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