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COVID-19 RULES

What Covid-19 rules are still in effect in Norway?

The Norwegian government has decided to scrap most coronavirus restrictions, but not all.

The ban on serving alcohol after 11pm has gone, as has the capacity limit on indoor and outdoor events and the border testing requirement for travellers entering Norway.

“Let there be no doubt: We are in a new phase of the pandemic,” said Labour Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre during Tuesday evening’s press conference, according to VG.

But Støre and his coalition government refrained from announcing a complete reopening.

These are the rules that remain in place, as presented in the government press briefing:

Mask wearing in public

Wearing a face mask remains obligatory in public places if it is impossible to maintain a distance of at least one metre. Masks will therefore still be required to move around in crowded restaurants, shops, malls, on public transport, in taxis and similar.

You may take off your mask at the table of a restaurant or inside the cinema, but put it back on when moving around in the establishment. This rule only goes for places with fixed seating, so even if you’re sat down on the subway you still need to wear a mask if it is too crowded to keep a one metre distance.

READ ALSO: Norway relaxes Covid-19 restrictions but keeps face mask rules

One metre distancing

The rule of keeping a one metre distance remains in place for public places, but again the exception is events with fixed seating. That means cinemas, theatres and other organisers of seated events now may fill up all their seats, without keeping seats empty between separate groups of attendees. 

However, they must ensure that it is possible to maintain a one metre distance when moving around on the premises.

All events of more than 200 people must also have a written Covid-19 infection control plan in place.

No dancing

The one-metre rule means that while drinking into the early hours is now effectively allowed, dancing remains banned.

While Støre jokingly confirmed to VG that there won’t be a dancing police patrolling bars, the rules effectively ban close-contact activities at bars and restaurants, dancing included.

Self-isolation

Those who test positive for Covid-19 will still have to quarantine, though the self isolation period has been shortened from six to four days. Infected people however have to be fever-free for at least 24 hours before breaking their self isolation period. The government has specified that the fever-free period must be natural, so without taking paracetamol or similar medication.

People living with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 are recommended – but not required – to get tested every day for five days in a row. The same goes for contact cases with symptoms. Those who cannot avoid close contact with the Covid positive person during their isolation period are recommended to get tested every day during that period and then every day for five days, so nine days in total. The government recommends self-tests, so there is no need to get an antigen or PCR test at a testing station.

Those who have returned a positive Covid-19 test are recommended to register in the “smittestopp” tracing app.

Testing when travelling for some

Unvaccinated people travelling to Norway must get tested prior to their journey, unless they can document that they have recently recovered from Covid-19. Testing at the border is scrapped for everyone, which means vaccinated travellers no longer face restrictions when entering Norway, except from registering digitally before the trip.

The current rules will remain in place until February 17th. Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkol said in the press statement that the government envisages being able to lift remaining rules on that date unless the pandemic develops “significantly differently” than the government foresees.

READ ALSO: These are the new Covid-19 rules for travelling to Norway

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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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