OSLO (Reuters) – Norway will allow larger groups of people to meet from next week and let most bars and restaurants serve alcohol up to midnight as it takes its next major step in unwinding COVID-19 curbs, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday.
The capital Oslo and its surrounding region will also relax some of its stricter localised restrictions, allowing gyms, cinemas, theatres and restaurants to reopen and children to resume indoor sports, authorities added.
“We’re ending the social lockdown of Oslo that has lasted since early November,” city council chief Raymond Johansen told a news conference.
“This will allow many people to get back to work,” he said.
Norway has had some of Europe’s lowest rates of infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic. But it tightened measures after a rapid increase in hospitalisations in March triggered by more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Since then, rates of new infections have declined steadily, raising hopes that a third wave of infections has been brought under control.
(Graphic: Norway weekly COVID-19 infections, https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/NORWAY/jznpnroolpl/chart.png)
The relaxations are the second phase of a four-step plan to unwind the national lockdown.
From May 27 in most of Norway, up to 200 people will be allowed to attend indoor events with fixed seats, up from the current 100, the government said.
Many restrictions on participation in recreational sports will also be lifted.
“This means that we can advance the work of getting Norway back up to speed,” Solberg told a news conference.
The stricter localised restrictions covering Oslo and its region will be eased a day earlier from May 26.
There, bars and restaurants will now be allowed to serve alcohol until 10 p.m., and up to 20 people to meet for indoors events, ending a ban on such gatherings.
National advice against domestic travel will be lifted immediately on Friday, the government said.
Norway is not part of the European Union but is part of the single European market and of the Schengen travel zone.
About one in three adults have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and roughly 15% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
(Editing by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrew Heavens)