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Authorities in Norway have introduced the country’s strongest coronavirus infection control measures since the initial lockdown in mid-March, as positive Covid-19 test results and hospital admissions continue to rise.
Stopping short of a second lockdown, the new measures nevertheless recommend everyone to stay at home if they can, avoid unnecessary domestic travel and impose stricter limits on public gatherings. Visiting Norway also becomes more challenging for all non-residents.
The latest news comes just a week after the announcement of new restrictions on gatherings and events designed to “save Christmas.”
Trying to avoid a second shutdown
“We do not have time to wait and see if the measures we introduced last week are sufficient. We must act now to avoid a new shutdown,” said Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg in a speech to the Norwegian parliament. She asked Norway’s 5.3 million residents to stay at home whenever possible and “have the least possible social contact with others.”
The full list of measures announced by the government are divided into rules and recommendations.
The rules include a new limit of 20 on private gatherings in public places and rented facilities and 50 at indoor events, although this can be increased to 20 if fixed seating is available. Alcohol cannot be sold after midnight, and places holding a liquor license cannot admit anyone after 10pm. Non-residents arriving in the country from a country given “red” status by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health must present a negative Covid-19 test taken within the last 72 hours. Previous restrictions on entering the country still apply, so a negative test does not guarantee entry for all.
Meanwhile, the new recommendations include staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible, and not taking any unnecessary journeys within Norway.
Authorities in Oslo and Bergen had already introduced stronger measures in October. The new national measures bring the rest of the country more or less into line with Norway’s two biggest cities.
The Norwegian police confirmed that fines of up to 20,000 Norwegian kroner ($2,200) will be issued for breaches of infection control rules.
More measures may follow
The Norwegian Directorate of Health is investigating whether a Covid-19 test should be introduced at national level before allowing employees to work in nursing homes and care homes. The use of face masks in such places is also being considered.
Stronger infection control measures on public transit including school buses are also under consideration.
Record numbers of positive test results
As with much of Europe, Norwegian authorities are grappling with infection numbers that go beyond the initial outbreak earlier this year. The latest figures given on November 4 showed 22,575 reported cases with 284 deaths.
597 new cases were reported on November 3, a new daily record and more than double the number of any single day during the first wave of the outbreak. That being said, testing capacity is now approximately 5-6 times higher than during the initial outbreak period.
The present number of hospital admissions is significantly lower than during the first outbreak. However, the number has risen steadily from 22 on October 11 to 72 on November 5, the highest number since the first week of May.