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COVID-19

Norway postpones full easing of Covid-19 measures for the second time

The Norwegian government has delayed the final phase of its four-step strategy for easing coronavirus restrictions and returning to normal life for the second time, Health Minister Bent Høie announced on Wednesday.

Norway postpones full easing of Covid-19 measures for the second time
Begren Harbour. Photo by Michael Fousert on Unsplash

The government has delayed the final stage of its exit plan from national Covid measures until mid-August at the earliest, Health Minister Bent Høie said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

The decision to delay the final step of reopening was based on advice and assessments made by the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. 

Earlier in July, PM Erna Solberg said that the government was delaying the final step of its reopening strategy until the end of July or early August

The reason for step four of the government’s exit plan from coronavirus measures is due to uncertainty surrounding the Delta variant, first identified in India. 

“The delta variant has become dominant as expected. It is uncertain how this will affect Norway,” Høie said.

“The pandemic is not over. There is a worrying development in several European countries as a result of the Delta variant, also in countries with higher vaccination coverage than in Norway, such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands,” Høie added. 

Another reason why the government has pushed back the final step of lifting coronavirus measures is to allow schools to return to green level, a return to more or less normal teaching, after the summer holidays.

Covid-19: What will schools in Norway be like after the summer break

“We must do what we can so that children and young people can start with a normal school day after the holidays. A further reopening now will increase the risk that more schools will have to open at the yellow or red level and thus affect children and young people,” Høie said.

Høie did announce, however, that some measures would be eased in Norway. From August 16th, children under the age of 18 will be exempt from self-isolating after being exposed to Covid-19.

The exception to this is if a member of their household or close contact such as boyfriend or girlfriend is required to isolate, or if the person in question tests positive for the coronavirus. Until then, the ten-day self-isolation period, seven if a PCR test is taken, would remain in place.

In practice this means pupils at schools will no longer have to isolate if a classmate tests positive. 

“This increases the risk of infection, but it is a risk we want to take,” Høie said.

In addition to this, on August 2nd, the rules for organisations and companies holding social gatherings will be relaxed too.

Get-togethers organised by companies for employees will now be classed as public events rather than private events meaning between 400- 1000 people can gather indoors depending on whether there is a seating plan or between 800-2000 participants outside.

You can read more about the rules for public events here.

Children under 18 whose parents are exempt from entry quarantine and aren’t vaccine pass holders will now be exempt from entry restrictions. Children whose parents are vaccine pass holders are already exempt.

From today adults would also be able to participate in grassroots competitively across different municipalities. You can read the complete list of changes here.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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