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CHRISTMAS

What are Norway’s Covid rules this New Year’s Eve?

Coronavirus restrictions will be in place in Norway over New Year's Eve and into January. The rules include a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants and recommended limits on the number of visitors you are allowed.

Pictured is some sparklers in action.
These are the rules that will be in place over the festive period. Pictured is some lit sparklers. Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What measures are in place? 

The measures are a mix of national recommendations and rules. The recommendations are guidelines and suggestions that are not binding and can’t be enforced, whereas restrictions must be followed. 

The national rules supersede any local restrictions unless the measures implemented regionally are stricter. 

What are the rules at home and for visits?

The headline measure many will need to be aware of are the proposed limits to the number of guests you can have. The limit will be ten people, not including household members. However, up to 20 guests are allowed once during the Christmas and New Year holidays provided a social distance of one metre can be maintained. 

This is a recommendation and is not legally enforceable. 

However, People are also being asked to limit their social gatherings and taking public transport to events. 

There are no curbs against travelling to spend time with family and loved ones.

What are the rules for self-isolating? 

People who return a positive coronavirus test will need to quarantine themselves for six days starting from when they tested positive. The isolation will be a minimum of six days but will not end until the person has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medicine. 

Household members will need to isolate before testing themselves after seven days. Close contacts must isolate for three days before taking a test. After that, however, they will need to be in what’s known as “leisure quarantine”. This means they can go to work, although they are expected to behave as if they are in quarantine outside of work hours. After day seven, they will test again, and all quarantine obligations end. 

If the test returns positive, then the quarantine rules for those infected with the virus will apply. 

READ MORE: What are the current rules for Covid-19 self-isolation in Norway?

Working life

People are being asked to work from home wherever possible. 

Those who do go into work will be asked to social distance and use face masks where social distancing isn’t possible unless a partition or barrier is in place. 

Bar’s restaurants and cafes 

The government introduced a national ban on the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants on December 15th. This will be in place for four weeks. Venues will not be forced to close, however.  

For starters, a maximum of 20 people can gather indoors at a public or rented venue. Bars, cafes and restaurants and one-on-one services such as hairdressers will need to register customers’ contact information, provided consent to do so is given. Some leisure settings will also need to register guests’ contact details. This won’t apply to shops, libraries and shopping centres.

Social distancing and face mask rules also apply at hospitality venues. 

At a local level, municipalities will have the power to require Covid-19 certificates in hospitality settings.

Shopping and leisure time

The New Year sales won’t be too heavily impacted by the new restrictions, although shoppers will be required to use a face mask when it’s not possible to keep a social distance of one metre. 

Shops will not register customers’ contact details, and there will not be capacity limits, as has been the case previously during the pandemic. However, in some instances fitting rooms will be closed to customers. 

Leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools can remain open for individual training, meaning classes are cancelled. However, guidelines ask that changing rooms stay closed.

Schools and university 

All primary and lower secondary schools would be moved to yellow level, and all upper secondary schools and adult education services must be run at red level.

Yellow level means social distancing, assigned seating plans for each student, no physical contact between individuals and minimising mixing between different classes to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Red level sees measures such as much smaller class sizes or cohorts and partial online schooling being implemented.

The schools will move to their respective levels on December 16th. 

Universities’ and colleges would be required to facilitate digital teaching as soon as possible.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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