OSLO (Reuters) -Norway will scrap most of its remaining COVID-19 lockdown measures with immediate effect as a spike in coronavirus infections is unlikely to jeopardise health services, the prime minister said on Tuesday.
Restaurants will again be allowed to serve alcohol beyond 11 o’clock at night, working from home will no longer be mandatory and the limit of 10 visitors in private homes will be removed, Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference.
“Even if many more people are becoming infected, there are fewer who are hospitalised. We’re well protected by vaccines. This means that we can relax many measures even as infections are rising rapidly,” Stoere said.
The announcement follows similar decisions by neighbouring Denmark and other European countries including Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands, which have eased or removed restrictions in recent weeks.
Norway in December went into partial lockdown to combat the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.
While lifting most restrictions, the country will keep basic social distancing measures, asking people to stay at least one metre apart and to wear a face mask in crowded settings, thus still hampering businesses such as nightclubs and some entertainment venues.
The easing is expected to lead to an even faster spread of the virus, and the government will continue to monitor the situation.
“We don’t know if this is the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Stoere said, adding that future tightening was possible.
Three quarters of all Norwegians have received at least two vaccine doses against the coronavirus and half the population has also had a booster shot, the National Institute of Public Health (FHI) says.
But infections will rise when restrictions are lifted.
“We face a wave of pandemic in the next month or two,” FHI chief Camilla Stoltenberg said.
Norway eased its quarantine rules last week, replacing mandatory quarantine in many cases with a daily test regime.
(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis and Victoria Klesty, editing by Terje Solsvik and Barbara Lewis)