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COVID-19

UPDATE: How could Norway’s Covid-19 restrictions be tightened this week? 

Following several outbreaks of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, Norway's government is considering tightening its national, regional and travel coronavirus rules, and the country's health minister said that new measures would be decided upon on Tuesday.

Pictured is Bergen's world famous harbour.
Norway's health minister has said new national, regional and travel rules could be on the way this week. Pictured is Bergen where tighter measures have been brought in. Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

More Covid-19 restrictions are on their way in Norway after the country’s health minister confirmed to public broadcaster NRK that the decision on more measures would be made Tuesday. 

“Tomorrow, we will come up with a new measure because we have got a situation with a lot of infection with the Delta variant. In addition, we have the Omicron variant that spread quickly,” Ingvild Kjerkol, health minister, told NRK

Kjerkol said the measures would be noticeable in everyday life. 

“There will be measures we will notice in our everyday lives,” the health minister told the public broadcaster. 

She said contact reducing measures were needed due to some parts of the health service struggling with capacity. 

Earlier on Monday, the minister told newspaper VG that the government and health authorities were looking at new measures. 

The assessment of the current restrictions and recommendations comes after weeks of rising Covid-19 cases and several outbreaks of the recently discovered Omicron variant, which early research indicates is more infectious than other variants. 

“We have control of the pandemic, but there have been several outbreaks with suspected Omicron cases. We have a regulation associated with cases where the variant (Omicron) is suspected, with longer isolation for household members. I am concerned, and we are looking at further measures regionally and nationally,” Kjerkol told VG

So far, tighter measures have been enforced in Oslo, its surrounding areas, and parts of west Norway, including Bergen. 

At a national level, people have been encouraged to use face masks in certain settings, drop handshakes, and work from home for parts of the week where possible. 

The health minister said that the countries health authorities were already looking at more curbs both locally and nationally. 

READ ALSO: What to expect if you are travelling to and from Norway this Christmas

“Now our agencies, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health, have ongoing talks to assess several regional and national measures. We are following the situation closely,” she explained. 

The health minister added that new measures could come this week if necessary. 

“I won’t rule out that more and stricter measures will come this week. We are following it (the infection situation) continuously and are in close dialogue with the professional authorities,” the health minister said. 

The health minister didn’t say what measures could be introduced nationally or regionally. The government’s infection control strategy this winter has primarily been to try and limit social contact and transmission of the disease without having to enforce stricter and more intrusive measures. 

In addition, Kjerkol said that new travel rules were also being looked at both for domestic trips and international arrivals. 

“We are looking at both (domestic and international rules). We have not decided anything on that but assess it based on whether there are new outbreaks. We have (already) introduced a number of entry measures for those who come to Norway,” she said.

“There is a test obligation and entry registration for both the unvaccinated and vaccines and quarantine hotels for arrivals from southern Africa with a high incidence of Omicron.”

The health minister could offer more solid details on the possibility of the interval between the second and third doses of Covid vaccines being reduced. Kjerkol said that health authorities were looking at the prospect of shortening the interval for those under-65 to speed up the booster program. 

Currently, the interval is six months for those aged under 65 and five months for over-65s. The government was mulling over reducing the interval for under-65s to five months. 

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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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