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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Monday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Monday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Pictured are children celebrating Santa Lucia.
Today marks Santa Lucia. Pictured is a group of children at the Swedish school in Japan celebrating Santa Lucia. Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno/ AFP.

Norway with highest rising Covid-19 infections in Europe 

Norway has the most substantial increase in the number of people infected with Covid-19 in Europe, when excluding Andorra, the Faroe Islands and San Marino, due to their small populations. 

Over the last week, the number of Covid infections per 100,000 people over a 14 day period has gone from 690 to 934. 

This makes Norway the country in Europe with the fastest increase in infection last week. Behind Norway are France and Denmark. 

Espen Nakstad, assistant director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health, said that infection was increasing among young people. 

“We are in a cold season, and we are in contact with each other a lot. In the younger age groups especially, there is a high increase in infection. They are close contacts and unvaccinated,” he explained to public broadcast NRK.

READ MORE: New Covid rules in Norway, what happens next? 

Santa Lucia day 

Monday marks Satna Lucia day in Norway. Children up and down the country will be dressed in all white while wearing candles on their heads and singing songs. 

Historically, December 13th was called Lussinatten, and no work was to be done. From that night until Christmas, it was believed that spirits, gnomes and trolls roamed the earth, and Lussi, a feared sorceress, punished anyone who dared work. 

Many celebrate the day with Lucia bun, which traditionally is supposed to be made with saffron. However, most substitute the expensive spice with turmeric due to its price. 

Government to help cover high electricity bills

The state has said it will cover half of the electricity bill when prices exceed the spot price of 70 øre per kilowatt-hour until March. 

The spot price is the current market price for raw energy. The support will apply from December until March 2022, and households will receive support for the consumption of up to 5,000-kilowatt-hours. 

Covid-19 situation similar to March 2020

Espen Nakstad, assistant health director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, has compared the current infection situation in Norway to the one in March 2020, partially because initial research indicates that vaccines are less effective against the Omicron variant. 

“We are a bit back to March 2020 when no one in the population had particularly good protection against the new virus. Now it seems that the vaccines do not protect as well against this new variant, and we are a bit back into the same situation, except that the vaccines may protect you from becoming seriously ill. It is, of course, very important, but it can still be a demanding infection situation,” Nakstad told broadcaster TV2.

3,662 new Covid-19 infections 

On Sunday, 3,662 new coronavirus infections were registered in Norway over the last 24 hours. This is 1,046 cases more than the same day the week before. 

An average of 4,626 Covid-19 cases have been registered per day over the last seven days. 

Total number of weekly Covid-19 cases throughout the pandemic.
Pictured above is a graph of the total number of weekly Covid-19 cases in Norway since the pandemic began. Source: Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday 

A proposed change to blood donation rules, parliament demanding an end to passport waiting times and the Bergen International Festival kicking off are among the main stories from Norway. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday 

Norway to look at change to blood donation rules

The Ministry of Health wants the Norwegian Directorate of Health to consider changes to the blood donation rules for gay men. 

Current regulations mean that gay men have to wait 12 months since they were last sexually active to donate blood. The same rules do not apply to heterosexual couples. 

“Blood donors make an invaluable contribution to society and to other people. It is important to facilitate that those who can and want to donate blood can do so in a safe way. This means that we must have regulations that are updated on professional knowledge about the risk of who can donate blood,” Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol said. 

Parliament demands an end to passport waiting times

A majority in parliament’s Justice Committee supported a proposal to introduce immediate measures to ease lengthy passport waiting times ahead of the summer holidays, NRK writes

The parties in government do not currently support the proposal but are in the minority. The measures will be voted on in parliament on June 2nd. 

So far, the government has extended passport office opening hours and reopened bureaus that were closed under the previous government. 

Norway’s Justice Minister has said that the proposals wouldn’t ease the backlog before the summer as the main issue is suppliers lack of the raw materials used to make the travel documents. 

“This proposal has no bearing on the prospect of delivering more passports before the summer. The government implemented these measures almost three months ago. But, the main problem is that the supplier lacks the components for production. We have extended the opening hours and increased staffing, but this is not where the problem lies now,” Emilie Enger Mehl, Minister of Justice, told NRK. 

READ ALSO: Norwegian police urge travellers not to book holidays without a valid passport

Bergen International Festival starts

Bergen’s annual cultural and music festival commences today. It is the largest festival in the Nordic countries of its type and will run for the next 14 days across the city. 

This afternoon, there will be an opening ceremony for the festival at Torgallmenningen Square. Queen Sonja and the Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre will be in attendence. 

First-quarter losses for budget airline

Budget airline Flyr lost 212 million kroner during the first quarter of 2022, despite passenger revenues of 78 million. 

Despite what the airline described as a challenging market, it believes the future looks promising as summer approaches. Flyr has reported a large number of bookings and has ordered new aircraft. 

Over the last year, the airline lost 419 million kroner.