Norway expected to announce change to Covid-19 rules on Tuesday

Rules relating to alcohol sales and home working could be among changes to be announced by the Norwegian government on Tuesday as Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed. A leading health official has urged the country to proceed with caution.

Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre could announce a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st.
Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre could announce a relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions on February 1st.File photo: Kay Nietfeld / POOL / AFP

Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and senior officials are scheduled to brief media on changes to Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday evening, broadcaster NRK reports.

The government has already signalled significant changes to the current restrictions, many of which could be lifted, but a complete end to restrictions like the one adopted by neighbouring Denmark on Tuesday has been ruled out.

That is because authorities in Norway remain concerned about the high number of patients with Covid-19 at the country’s hospitals, with the peak of the current wave of infections yet to be reached, NRK writes.

According to the broadcaster, limits on capacity in cultural settings and current restrictions on alcohol sales could be eased on Tuesday, although the full details of any potential changes are unclear.

Cafes, pubs and restaurants and other licensed venues are currently allowed to serve alcohol until 11pm.

Rules relating to self-isolation could also be eased. People who have tested positive for Covid-19 and people who have symptoms of the virus will still be required to isolate, however.

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

The government could also announce during Tuesday evening’s briefing that travel rules will be further relaxed.

Last week saw the end of Covid-19 entry quarantine rules for all arrivals, meaning travellers arriving in Norway are no longer be required to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status or whether they have a valid Covid-19 certificate.

Additionally, rules and restrictions could be switched for recommendations in a number of areas.

Newspaper Dagbladet reported on Monday that social distancing guidelines and face mask rules will be retained, although NRK writes that these rules may be adapted.

Requirements to work from home where possible could be revoked according to a report by newspaper VG.

Government decisions relating to Covid-19 restrictions are made on the basis of recommendations from health authorities the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

The deputy director of the latter authority, Espen Rostrup Nakstad, confirmed to NRK that the easing of restrictions in several areas had been recommended.

There is no guarantee all restrictions will be eased at the same time, Nakstad said.

“There will be an assessment of how the infection situation will develop going forward and of sick leave (from workplaces), and how quickly we should move forwards,” he said.

Health authority recommendations are also weighed against other factors in final government decisions. The government is expected to meet this afternoon, NRK reports.

“(The situation) is going the right way. We now have a virus variant which gives a more normal respiratory infection and results in far fewer hospital admissions. Many are now ell vaccinated and many have been ill. It is absolutely going the right way,” Nakstad told the broadcaster.

Asked whether Norway should take the same step as Denmark and lift all restrictions, the senior health official noted Denmark’s high rate of booster vaccination.

More than 60 percent of the Danish population has received a third dose — one month ahead of health authorities’ schedule — compared to an EU average of just under 45 percent.

“Last autumn we lived very normally for a few weeks until the Delta variant started to cause problems in the late autumn. I think we will be good at adapting to a new everyday life. What’s important is that we don’t lose our heads and forget our everyday routines,” he also said.

That means staying at home when sick and regular testing to avoid the strain of high infection rates and absences from workplaces, he said.

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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.”