Latest Corona-related news in brief:

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A HIGH SCHOOL ON THE WEST COAST was closed again this week after someone who’d tested positive to the Corona virus attended a party on May 16 along with several students from the Kvam High School in Hardanger. Some Kvam students have since shown signs of Corona symptoms and local authorities have shut down the school, for at least three days.

“Even though the outbreak appears limited, we’re taking this seriously,” local mayor Torgeir Næss told state broadcaster NRK. Authorities have also decided to close the local health care center.

State public health institute FHI reported, meanwhile, that Norway is unlikely to be shut down to the same extent as it was in March in the case of new virus outbreaks. Government officials didn’t always follow the advice of FHI experts, who didn’t think it was necessary to close schools and day care centers. Now they probably will, even though state health director Bjørn Guldvog told newspaper Aftenposten that he still thinks it was correct to resort to drastic measures.

A total of 8,364 Norwegians had tested positive to the Corona virus as of Tuesday, up from 8,346 on Monday. Hospitalizations fell again, to 37 nationwide, and the death toll remained at 235. With the infection rate so low, FHI sees no need to test large groups of healthy people, for example all employees of a company. FHI still recommends testing, however, for all people suffering acute respiratory ailments who have fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

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***Norway can boast among the world’s largest declines in Covid-19 cases, according to its latest Corona-related statistics. Infection levels in Norway are now so low that public health institute FHI estimates only 15 of 12,000 randomly tested residents of Norway would yield a positive result. Statistics released at midnight Sunday (May 24) showed yet another reduction, to 38, in the number of Norwegians currently hospitalized nationwide after testing positive for the Corona virus. That’s down from 41 on Thursday, and 325 in late March, when there also was heavy demand on intensive care units. Nor were there any new reports of Corona-related deaths during the long holiday weekend. “We have more control than we have had,” Espen Nakstad, assistant health director, told state broadaster NRK Monday morning. He remains cautious, however: “We must be prepared that we won’t get rid of the virus any time soon. That means we can’t lower our shoulders yet.”

***Drive-in Id celebrations were successful when Muslims in Oslo ended their fasting during Ramadan over the weekend. Around 250 cars full of festive celebrants made their way to what was billed as a “drive-in Id” at the large parking lot at Tryvann, in the hills above Oslo. There they were treated to circus artists, ice cream for the children, songs and speeches. Ongoing Corona virus containment measures put a damper on traditional large gatherings that often are compared to Christmas Eve for Christians. State broadcaster NRK also offered special live coverage of Id celebrations around the country Sunday evening, which attracted more than 300,000 viewers.

***Museums in Norway have joined the legions of companies and public institutions demanding Corona-crisis aid packages. Admission fee revenues disappeared when museums closed around the country in March, and the outlook remains poor since foreign tourists won’t be traveling to Norway this summer. The KODE art museum complex in Bergen, including the historic home of composer Edvard Grieg, warned last week that it faces bankruptcy by October unless the state boosts its funding. Prime Minister Erna Solberg promised that a new crisis package looms: “We’re working hard to find solutions for institutions like KODE.”

***Inmates at Bergen Prison are demanding reductions in their jail terms because of the Corona isolation they’ve undergone since March. They claim it feels like their jail terms have “doubled,” because of extra confinement in their cells. The strict isolation measures were imposed to keep prisoners separated and healthy but inmates are not appreciative. They’re used to being able to attend classes or work at a prison job every day until at least 2:30pm, and then have “free time” to meet other prisoners, work out or play ping pong. Justice Minister Monica Mæland of the Conservative Party dashed hopes of jail term reductions, though. “Many people are deeply affected by this crisis, also prisoners,” Mæland told NRK, “but I don’t think that means they can get a reduction in the prison terms they’ve received for crimes they’ve committed.”

***Charter tour operators Ving, Tui and Apollo are the latest to cancel all the package tours they’d sold or still hoped to sell this summer, after the Norwegian government opted to maintain restrictions on travel outside Norway until at least July 20. Many borders may not open until after that, making prospects for summer holidays abroad dim indeed. The three tour operators all noted on their websites that they’d decided to cancel their travel packages that usually include flights, ground transportation and hotels, through August 20. That’s currently set as the date when travel to and from European destinations may resume, pending a new evaluation  due on July 20.

***Public transport systems in Oslo are cracking down on how many passengers can travel by bus, tram or metro at any given time. The metro system is blocking off seats and standing areas, to limit the number of people on board. Sporveien, which runs the Norwegian capital’s mass transit system, has started marking seat- and standing areas that will cut the number of passengers on the metro line (T-banen), for example, from 450 to 130. Trams that held 200 will only be allowed to carry 59 passengers. Commuter trains will also be marking off seats to reduce the numbers of people allowed on board. “We see that more people are out traveling again, but estimate there will still be 30 percent fewer than normal (since many still work from home),” Gina Scholz of state railway Vy told newspaper Aftenposten.

***Grocery store clerks don’t seem to be unduly at risk for Corona infection. Large grocery chains in Norway report surprisingly few cases of employees testing positive to the Corona virus. NorgesGruppen, the highly profitable conglomerate that owns the Meny, Kiwi, Spar, Joker and Jacobs chains of grocery stores among other businesses, reports only 0.15 of its employees have tested positive for the virus. The stores have strict Corona measures in place, in an effort to keep both employees and customers at a distance of at least one meter from one another.

***State plans for new massive Corona virus testing have been put on ice, reports newspaper Aftenposten. Local governments were supposed to step up testing to at least 5 percent of their residents, but health officials don’t think there’s a need for so much testing any longer. Recent testing has resulted in few confirmations: 57 of the 11,471 tested in the past week. “Given the situation now, it’s enough with testing 1.5 percent every week,” Health Director Bjørn Guldvog told Aftenposten on Monday (May 18). That would amount to around 100,000 people.

***Only a small percentage of Norwegians have been infected by the Corona virus so far, Norway’s public health institute (FHI) announced Monday. That means the infection hasn’t spread much but it’s more deadly for those who do become infected. A new French study has prompted FHI (Folkehelseinstitutt) to recalculate how many Norwegians are suspected of being infected, and slash the number. While they earlier thought around 1 percent of the population carried the virus, they now think the real number is between 0.58 percent and 0.73 percent (32,000 to 40,000 Norwegians).

***Grandparents can finally spend time with their grandchildren, after the government continued to ease Corona containment rules. They’ll also be able to spend summer holidays together, after months of not even being able to meet for dinner or other casual visits. The government maintained foreign travel restrictions but cleared the way for summer holidays in Norway on Friday. Elders were warned that those over age 65 are more vulnerable to Corona infection, however, and should re-evaluate visits and holidays if the infection rate starts rising again.

***Critics are urging a new evaluation of the massive project to rebuild Norway’s government complex, which was heavily damaged in a terrorist attack in 2011. They claim the Corona virus crisis has made the project’s open office landscapes less attractive, and could raise infection danger. Others argue that the success of home offices in recent months reduces the need for office space for all the 5,000 government workers in ministries that are due to be reassembled on the redeveloped site of the former complex. The ministry in charge of the project has asked for a new evaluation from the state property owner Statsbygg. Controversy also continues to swirl around plans to demolish the damaged Y-blokka building best known for its artworks by Pablo Picasso.

***Norway has registered a low death rate from the Corona-induced Covid-19 illness. When the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in mid-April that more than 6 percent of those infected with the Corona virus had died, the number in Norway was 2.62 percent. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the actual percentage may be lower, because of a new survey in Norway showing that only a small portion of the population, around 2 percent, has actually been infected with the virus. Researchers at Norway’s public health institute FHI say the death rate from those infected was actually around 0.2 percent. The initial death rate of 2.62 percent remains low compared to other countries, including Sweden at 12.25 percent and Denmark at 4.91 percent. In China and the US, around 5.5 percent of those known to be infected have died. The global average is 3.4 percent, according to WHO.

***Museums in Norway are beginning to reopen but fear this will be a very bad year because of the sudden and sharp decline in paying visitors. Nor has any emergency money come their way from the state government, which has been funding crisis packages amounting to hundreds of billions of kroner. None has been earmarked yet for museums, with the Teknisk museum in Oslo telling newspaper Dagsavisen that it’s now living off its reserves. It’s been closed since March 12, when the government shut down most of the country, but aims to reopen on the last weekend in May.

***The Norwegian government has withheld several reports, notes and letters tied to the Corona virus crisis, pulling them from the public record “out of consideration for internal handling.” Critics are demanding more openness about how decisions on Corona containment measures were made. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that the material withheld involves decisions that closed schools, assessed local governments’ capacity to handle the virus, measured supplies of protective gear for health care personnel and what consequences the containment measures had on state health care services. Debate has already arisen over how the government didn’t always follow health care professionals’ advice, usually for political reasons. Concerns are rising that the openness and cooperation that characterized Norway’s initial official response to the Corona outbreak are now overshadowed by political issues.

***Norwegian Air and Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) will both demand use of face masks on all their flights starting next week, but not Norway’s domestic carrier Widerøe. It claimed it was simply following the Norwegian government’s official recommendations that don’t include obligatory use of face masks. All passengers above the age of six who travel with SAS and Norwegian Air will need to provide their own facemasks and wear them onboard on all national and international flights between May 18th and August 31. EU authorities are demanding the same.

***Prime minister Erna Solberg has had video meetings in recent weeks with fellow government leaders of seven other countries with low levels of Corona virus infection. The goal is to share experiences and even open a “secure holiday corridor” this summer. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Solberg has been talking with the leaders of Greece, Denmark, Israel, Austria, Singapore, the Czech Republic and Australia. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is keen to welcome Norwegian tourists back to Greece, where tourism is a vital contributor to the Greek economy. Norway will be coordinating its own border openings and easing of travel restrictions with the EU.

***Frustration over restrictions during the Corona virus crisis were reportedly behind an incident at the Sem Prison near Tønsberg on Tuesday afternoon. News media reported that eight inmates barricaded themselves in an area of the prison and resorted to vandalism before police brought their uproar under control. Several patrol cars were sent to the prison to calm down prisoners whom state broadcaster NRK reported were frustrated by having to spend longer periods of time in their cells, where they no longer are allowed to bring items purchased from a prison kiosk.

***More Corona-related deaths were registered during the weekend, with newspaper Bergens Tidene reporting on Monday that a 41-year-old man is among the casualities. He’s the youngest to die in Norway so far. His death brought the country’s death toll to 224 on Monday afternoon, up from 217 on Friday.

***Schools reopened on Monday, at least partially, and the government later announced a further easing of infection rules that allow children up to age 10 to have physical contact while playing sports. Adults must continue with what Health Minister Bent Høie calls “Corona training,” which involves maintaining a distance of at least a meter between them and training groups limited to a maximum of 20 people.

***Foreign travel restrictions may remain in place at least until June 15, following news Friday that the EU recommends continuing a ban until then on arrivals from outside its outer border. That includes Norway, with Health Minister Bent Høie promising new travel recommendations on Friday. Norwegian government officials are in the process of easing Corona virus containment measures, but wouldn’t say when restrictions on traveling in and out of Norway might be lifted. Travel currently is allowed, but everyone arriving in Norway from abroad has been subject to a 14-day quarantine. That’s set to be reduced to 10 days, but the government stated that Norwegians “must be prepared that the travel quarantine rule can remain in place through the summer.”

***Even Norway’s stave churches are being hit hard by the Corona virus crisis. Newspaper Aftenposten reported recently that tour group cancellations have poured in, cutting deeply into the income needed to help preserve the historic wooden churches from early Middle Ages. Eight of Norway’s 28 remaining stave churches are owned by the private association Fortidsminneforeningen, and only three have been profitable including the Borgund stave church in Lærdal. It was supposed to open in mid-April but that’s been postponed until late May. The closure, along with loss of visitors, means losses not just for the church but also for local shops, hotels and cafés. Only around 300 people live in Borgund, with the church its major tourist attraction. “The 2020 season is looking like it will be extremely bad,” Ola Fjeldheim of the association told Aftenposten.

***Less than 1 percent of Norwegians have been infected with the Corona virus or have been ill with Covid-19, and less than 2 percent in Oslo alone, according to new analyses from state health officials. With so few resistant to the disease, experts warn, a new outbreak could occur at any time. “It would be naive to think that this (the Corona crisis) is over with the round we’ve just been through,” said assistant health cirector Geir Stene-Larsen. In Oslo, which has been the Corona epicenter in Norway, bloodtests from 397 people chosen at random showed only 2 percent to be carrying Corona antibodies. “That makes us vulnerable to a new outbreak,” Dr Per Magnus, project leader at the state public health institute told state broadcaster NRK on Thursday.

***Cities and towns around Norway lack enough protective clothing and equipment for health care workers to carry out the increased Corona testing announced last week. More testing is supposed to be made available, the health ministry promised, but newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday (May 7) that’s easier said than done: local governments including Oslo can’t meet requirements to test 5 percent of their residents every week. Oslo has, along with Bærum, Nordre Follow, Ullensaker and Lillestrøm, sent an appeal to the ministry for more help in acquiring and paying for the equipment needed.

***Passenger restrictions will continue to apply on trains, trams and buses in Norway, even as they return to more normal schedules. Only 50 percent of capacity can be used, with passengers also expected to remain a least a meter apart while on board. Passengers will need to spread out, and may even be asked to get off if the mode of transport on which they’re riding becomes too full.

***Inadequate testing capacity may have led to more Corona-related deaths than necessary, especially at nursing homes, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Local governments that run nursing homes in Norway claim that it took too long before nursing home patients were tested, and state health director Bjørn Guldvog tends to agree. Around 40 percent of all Corona-related deaths in Norway have occurred at nursing homes in Oslo, Bergen, Kristiansand, Drammen and Bærum. When the local officials were asked to clarify, they offered several reasons as to why they didn’t manage to halt infections. The lack of testing was among them. “I think testing capacity may have played a relevant role,” Guldvog told Aftenposten. The nursing homes also lacked enough nurses, and classic Corona symptoms of high fevers and respiratory ailment aren’t always reflected in elderly patients. They’re more likely, Guldvog noted, to involve intestinal trouble and anxiety.

***As Norway continues to gradually reopen, cinemas, bars and restaurants will be among popular spots back in business from Wednesday as long as they only cater to 50 customers or less. They’ll have to stay a meter apart from one another as well. The City of Oslo is ending its ban on serving alcoholic beverages from Wednesday as well, but the social distancing requirements remain in place. There’s to be no bellying up to the bar and patrons will have to order food as well as drinks. Labour Party politician Trond Giske, meanwhile, complained on Tuesday that he think it’s more important to start allowing football matches than movies: “Top league football is a business that needs help like all others.” While health officials have approved of football training sessions, government officials remain restrictive and claim football can’t be favoured over other sports.

***Grandparents can finally meet their grandchildren again, after state health officials further relaxed some of their Corona containment measures on Monday.  Relatives are still advised, however, to meet outdoors and refrain from any hugging. Anyone with a respiratory ailment should still stay home. Otherwise grandparents and grandchildren can meet as long as they wash their hands and keep at a distance. The latter is likely to be the most difficult.

***Norway’s digital May Day celebration last week attracted around 15,000 supporters who took part in online parades and tuned in to hear speeches and appeals throughout the day. It was much less than the tens of thousands in Oslo alone who traditionally attend rallies and march through town, but organizers were satisfied. Corona containment measures put a stop to all the ordinary events and they tried to make the best ut of it: “This digital celebration fell into a string of so many things that are cancelled because of Corona,” Kirsten Helene Teige of the labour organization Norsk Tjenestemannslag told newspaper Klassekampen. “All our fellowship was reduced to us sitting alone with a computer. We hope for a normal celebration next year.”

***Cash support being handed out by the government to Norwegian businesses hurt by the Corona crisis isn’t helping as many as predicted. National employers’ organization NHO reports that fully 40 percent of businesses questioned in a recent survey reported that they’re receiving “little or no help,” for example taxi drivers who haven’t been allowed to claim fixed expenses such as car loan payments. The government is already cutting a NOK 10,000 deductible in half, to NOK 5,000 for businesses not ordered to close by state authorities. That should boost the amount of cash aid they can claim. NHO is proposing a series of further “improvements” to the crisis assistance.

***Marching bands around Norway are the latest to ask the state for financial assistance, after the flea markets and bazaars that usually fund their activities during the springtime have all been banned. The money is needed for uniforms, instruments and other operations, with local musikkorps claiming they’re in “deep economic crisis.” Their performances have also been disrupted, with parades cancelled both on Friday’s May 1st public holiday and, not least, on the 17th of May. Earlier emergency aid offered by the Ministry of Culture didn’t help marching bands at all, since they only offered compensation for lost ticket revenues. Marching bands don’t sell tickets and rather raise their funds from hosting flea markets or selling waffles at other public events that also are cancelled because they exceed crowd limitations. Other volunteer organizations like local athletics clubs have also complained that state aid packages haven’t addressed their needs.

***Calls by the Greens Party for a new “Corona tax,” aimed at reducing withdrawals from Norway’s Oil Fund to finance Corona relief packages, have not had a warm reception. The Greens (Miljøpartiet De Grønne, MDG) voted at their annual meeting over the weekend (conducted online) to impose at least a new temporary “crisis tax” of 5 percent on income over NOK 700,000 (USD 70,000) a year. The goal is to help finance the emergency aid packages being handed out to laid-off workers, closed businesses and many others, and take the pressure off the Oil Fund. “The Corona crisis will be extremely expensive, but the Oil Fund belongs to future generations,” stated the Greens deputy leader Arild Hermstad. “If we use way too much of its money to address the crisis, it will hurt the young. We think those who earn the most should contribute more.” Not even the Greens’ usual allies on the left side of Norwegian politics are keen on the idea. “I see what the Greens are trying to do, but this looks like a pure attack on income,” Kari Elisabeth Kaski of the Socialist Left party (SV) told newspaper Klassekampen. She also questioned imposition of “temporary” taxes, and claimed the Oil Fund can be tapped in crisis situations. The tax proposal thus isn’t expected to win much if any support in Parliament.

***Despite all the economic gloom and doom that’s been predicted by various analysts and economists, the head of Norway’s biggest bank is confident Norway will ride out the Corona crisis and emerge in good shape. DNB chief executive Kjerstin Braathen stressed in a recent commentary in newspaper Aftenposten that Norwegian authorities “have strong financial muscles and are willing to flex them.” She also noted how Norway has good welfare programs that reduce the effects of rising unemployment, and that there’s lots of mutual confidence within Norwegian society, across party lines, business and labour organizations. “We also have very solid banks with capacity and capital to support business,” Braathen wrote. Norwegian banks “are an important part of the solution, and have the capacity, competence and technology to help customers through a difficult time,” Braathen claimed.

***Trams and buses in Oslo are being subjected to some stricter Corona containment measures, now that they’re getting back to more normal route schedules and more people need public transport as the city starts to reopen. After noticing that some rush-hour buses were full, transport officials are cordoning off several seats to enforce social distancing. The trams and buses are also being cleaned and disinfected at the end of their periods of service.

***Many Norwegians are still staying home, even though the government has eased some Corona containment measures. A new survey shows that fully 22 percent of Norwegians questioned still won’t leave the house because of the virus outbreak. At the same time, the numbers of those who think restrictions will remain in place for nine months or more in increased. When analysis company Opinion first started its Corona surveys, 25 percent expected a lengthy period of restrictions. Now the portion is 60 percent.

***Schools opened up again for their youngest pupils around Norway on Monday, as authorities ease more Corona virus containment measures but maintain others. They don’t think letting young children return to school will have any effect on the spread of the virus, but they’ll close schools again quickly if they get such indications. Older elementary school students are expected to be able to return to school in early May.

***Health Minister Bent Høie was among the first to sit down for a haircut on Monday, when hair salons and other personal care businesses could finally reopen to the public. Various special infection-control measures remain in place, regarding cleaning and distance between customers, but Norwegians were expected to pour in after going without haircuts and other salon services for nearly seven weeks, much longer if they were due for a haircut just before the first round of strict Corona containment measures took effect on March 12. Several salons taking appointments reported being fully booked for weeks ahead.

***Norway ranks 15th in the world for Corona testing on a per-capita basis. Iceland tops the list from Worldometers, having tested 126,429 people in its population of around 364,000. Next come the Færø Islands and the Falklands, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Gibraltar. While US President Donald Trump steadily boasts of testing the most people, the US falls far down the list of testing per million residents. Norway had tested 26,425 of its roughly 5 million residents when the ranking was compiled.

***A nursing home  in Bergen has been described as an “infection bomb,” after 13 of 46 residents have died from Corona-related illness. A complaint filed about the Methodist Home in Bergen blames “serious weakness” in handling an infection outbreak. The nursing home has been hit hard by the COVID-19 illness during the past week, with an additional 12 residents moved into a special ward for Corona at the nursing home in Bergen’s Fyllingdalen district. An investigation is underway.

***As Norwegians flock to the forests to get out of the house during the Corona crisis, two teenagers went hiking all over Oslo instead. Jørgen Brekke, age 16, and his friend Knut Brekke (no relation), 17, covered the sprawling Norwegian capital in a marathon of sorts, walking 65 kilometers (39 miles) through all of the city’s official neighorhoods in 13 hours. “I just thought that now, with so many people in the forests, there may not be so many elsewhere in the city,” Jørgen Brekke told newspaper Aftenposten. He and Knut left their home district of Østensjø early in the morning right after Easter and headed for Søndre Nordstrand, Nordstrand, Gamle Oslo, Grünerløkka, Sagene, St Hanshaugen, Frogner, Ullern, Vestre Aker, Nordre Aker, Bjerke, Grorud, Stovner and Alna before arriving back in Østensjø around 9:30 at night. “I went straight to bed,” Knut told Aftenposten. Jørgen added that it gave both “an idea of how big Oslo really is. It is, in fact, very large.”

***Norway probably won’t get a Corona vaccine until the fall of next year, warns the director of the public health institute (FHI). That means Norwegians will have to get used to living with Corona containment measures for a long time, even though infection rates have slowed considerably and relatively few are currently hospitalized. “We must be prepared to deal with infection risk, perhaps for another year or two, or maybe even longer,” FHI director Dr Camilla Stoltenberg told newspaper Aftenposten on Thursday (April 23).

***State officials were alarmed this week when warm weather prompted many people to flock outdoors and ignore regulations against gatherings of any more than five people. Security guards ended up closing off popular beach areas along the Oslo fjord while the number of people taking ferries to the islands was limited to 30, leaving many would-be passengers standing in long lines. Similar restrictions were imposed elsewhere around Norway, with police in Hamar closing off a park area along Lake Mjøsa after an estimated 200 people had gathered to party and enjoy the sunshine.

***Arendalsuka, one of the biggest political events of the year that gathers thousands every August in the southern city of Arendal for debates, mingling and partying, was cancelled on Thursday. “It was a difficult decision,” wrote event leader Robert Cornels Nordli in a press release, “but health comes first.” More than 75,000 people attended more than 1,200 events at last year’s Arendalsuka, where people can chat with top politicians, business leaders and activists and debate current issues. Organizers opted against replacing the late summer gathering with a digital version: “The magic of Arendalsuka takes place when we meet on a boat, in a café or walking down the street,” Nordli said. “We didn’t think a digital version would offer the same experience.”

***Corona infection in Norway was cut back much faster than health experts expected last month. New analyses from the state public health institute (FHI) show that the spread of the virus slowed way down just a few days after the government basically shut down the country on March 12 and asked Norwegians to just stay home. By the time Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced on March 24 that her government’s strategy was to bring the virus’ reproduction number to under one, it already had fallen to between 0.71 and 0.78 during the period March 17-22. Norway could thus start gradually opening up again, with FHI expecting the infection rate to remain at around 0.7 in the weeks ahead.

***Around 6,000 companies have already applied for cash support offered by the state, to help offset lost income and ward off bankruptcies by covering up to 90 percent of fixed expenses such as monthly lease payments and utility bills. Several business owners are disappointed, however, and the online process of applying for the aid is more complicated than expected. Some wound up with only 25 percent of their costs covered, because of a NOK 10,000 deductible and lower payments on leases tied to sales that disappeared. Salary- and inventory purchasing costs aren’t covered, and now many retailers predict they’ll have to fire workers so that they can obtain unemployment benefits.

***City officials in Oslo plan to allow some bars and restaurants to resume serving beer and other alcoholic beverages in early May. They had collectively punished all serving establishments on the evening of Saturday March 21, claiming that several bars weren’t abiding by rules demanding at least two meters between customers. City government leader Raymond Johansen told state broadcaster NRK on Wednesday that establishments serving food will be the first to start pouring again, as long as customers also order something to eat.

***The education ministry has now cancelled all year-end exams for high school students in Norway, because of the disruption caused by the Corona crisis. Written exams were already cancelled, but now no oral exams will be offered either. Education Minister Guri Melby insisted that graduating students will still receive a “thorough” evaluation of their work throughout the year and a diploma.

***Only one out of seven COVID-19 patients has died in Norwegian hospitals’ intensive care units. The vast majority of COVID-19 patients who have been treated in intensive care units (196 as of April 20) have survived. Most Corona-related deaths have occurred in Norwegian nursing homes, not hospitals, confirms a new report from the state public health institute FHI (Folkehelseinstituttet). In one case reported this week, a male resident of a nursing home in the Oslo suburb of Bærum who showed no symptoms of the Corona virus is believed to have infected 53 others before he was routinely tested during a hospital visit and results came back positive. Local newspaper Budstikka reported that the tragedy emerged after the man was tested on March 26. He had already infected 21 fellow residents of Vallerhjemmet in Bærum and 32 employees. All were placed in isolation and eight have died.

***Many Norwegian banks are helping customers who’ve suddenly lost their jobs and face problems meeting their mortgage payments. Banks have been actively encouraging customers to take contact, so they can work out payment relief plans by reducing principal payments or even arranging that only interests costs be covered. SpareBank1 was among those taking out full-page ads in Norwegian newspapers, urging customers to call for help instead of risking loan defaults. “Many people are sitting at home right now and worrying,” the ad read. “If you are, we want you to contact us. We can find good solutions together.”

***Among businesses where revenues literally have dried up is Travel Retail Norway, which runs most of the tax-free stores at Norwegian airports. With hardly any flights running, tax free sales that averaged more than NOK 100 million (USD 9.5 million) a week have come to an abrupt halt. That in turn has led to huge revenue losses for Avinor, the state agency that runs Norway’s airports. Sales of tax-free items and other popular products sold in large bulk quantities at lower prices have helped finance many of Norway’s small airports along with operating costs at large airports. “Our income stems from both (airline) fees and commercial revenues, and they’ve fallen in line with airline traffic” Egil Thompson of Avinor told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). He estimated losses caused by the Corona crisis, which has halted most airline travel, will amount to several billion kroner.

***The head of public health services in the Oslo suburb of Bærum, Dr Frantz Leonard Nilsen, has told newspaper Aftenposten that he and his staff have alerted state health officials to how several elderly patients have not exhibited classic Corona symptoms like coughing, being short of breath or running a high fever. Instead several have become increasingly confused, a few have fallen and many suffered diarrhea before they began coughing and exhibiting symptoms of a lung ailment.

***Politicians are rethinking how or even whether Norway should build new and larger, more centralized hospitals. The trend has been towards consolidation of hospitals, also to attract more professional expertise. It’s come at the expense of smaller hospitals located in more communities, and Oslo has not been immune. Now the anti-consolidation Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold is warning against replacing Oslo’s sprawling Ullevål University Hospital, the largest in the country, with a new high-rise hospital to be located next to the National Hospital (Rikshospital). Corona has shown that it can be better to have Ullevål’s various separate buildings instead of one large new consolidated structure where infection could spread more easily. He has asked Health Minister Bent Høie to put plans for the new Ullevål on hold until an analysis of the Corona crisis can be held.

***Norwegian officials are gradually starting to reopen the country after a month of asking people to stay home to limit the spread of the virus. Day care centers were welcoming children back on Monday, with new routines and lots of hand-washing. Schools will reopen up to the fourth grade next Monday, April 27, and businesses including hair salons and dentists can welcome customers back as long as they comply with anti-infection measures. Norwegians will still be expected to limit social contact, at least for several more weeks.

***House-bound Norwegians will still be able to sing the national anthem on the 17th of May, all together and all at once. Culture Minister Abid Raja conceded that Norway’s Constitution Day celebrations on May 17th will be dampened, but the country’s most important day of the year will not go unnoticed. Traditional parades already have been cancelled, because of Corona virus infection fears, but Norwegians will still be urged to dress up as usual. Then, at precisely 1pm on the 17th of May, canons will be fired at historic fortresses around the country. There will be 21 shots with five-seconds between them, and then a national choir (Det norske solistkor) will sing the national anthem Ja, vi elsker on national TV “and everyone can sing along.” He also said some marching bands may be allowed to march through various towns and cities, and flags will fly nationwide.

*** Nine more people died on Friday (April 17)from the Corona illness COVID-19, bringing Norway’s death toll to 161. The deaths occurred in Lillehammer, Stavanger, Oslo, Drammen, Moss and Bergen. Hospitalizations, however, continued to decline, to 165, with only around 50 patients needing intensive care. Health Minister Bent Høie, who announced before the Easter holidays that “the corona epidemic is under control” in Norway, has urged Norwegian hospitals to go back to more normal operations and resume calling in patients for scheduled operations and treatments after weeks of postponements.

***Public transport in Oslo will return to normal schedules when schools at least partially re-open on Monday April 27. Bus, tram and metro traffic was reduced when state authorities imposed Corona virus containment measures from March 12 that shut down most all public institutions, many businesses and called for Norwegians to just stay home. Day care centers in Oslo are due to reopen from April 20 and with schools reopening a week later, transport provider Ruter decided that the numbers of people needing public transportation again will increase. Social distancing rules still apply, however, with passengers told to stay at least one- to two meters from one another.

*** Norway’s white collar crime unit Økokrim has received tips about alleged swindles of the state’s new and generous unemployment benefits. They involve business owners who have laid off employees, knowing they’ll now get at least 60 percent of more of their salaries paid by the state, but then asking them to work anyway to keep the business going. Other offenses may involve organized crime. “We’ve received information and can see that some people file incorrect compensation claims, or have laid off people who are in fact still working,” Hedvig Moe, acting chief of Økokrim told state broadcaster NRK on Thursday. She said her agency had expected that some may exploit the state’s emergency relief packages, but face heavy fines and jail terms if caught.

***Face masks may become a more common sight in Norway, after EU authorities declared they can reduce the spread of Corona virus infection. That’s been up for debate and Norwegian officials have not encouraged their use, especially because of shortages that give medical personnel top priority. Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that  Norway’s public health institute FHI (Folkehelseinstituttet) will now respond to an EU request to evaluate recommending mask use when people go out in public.

*** The average age of those infected with the Corona virus has now been set at 47, split fairly evenly between men and women, reported Norway’s public health institute. Most of those falling seriously ill, however, are men. Fully 76 percent of the 183 COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care to date are men. Those dying have ranged in age from 51 to 102, with the average age being 87 as of Wednesday (April 15).

While health and government officials continue to be encouraged by the trends, with some Corona containment measures set to be eased over the next few weeks, Health Minister Bent Høie cautioned that “it will be still be a long time before everything is as it was before.” He stressed an ongoing need for social distancing, frequent hand-washing and staying home as much as possible.

“If we don’t succeed (at containing the virus), we’ll have to tighten up again,” Høie said. “We have taken control together. It has had a high price. We must hang on to control together, and it’s very easy to lose it.”

***Wealthy Norwegians are resorting to expensive ways of surviving confinement and making the best out of otherwise spoiled travel plans, not least during the recent Easter holidays. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports that some have offered an entire month’s pay for a skin care specialist to offer treatment at home, while others bought elaborate Easter baskets filled with expensive soaps, lotions, wine or gourmet food. Some have tried to get exclusive sports trainers come to their homes to coach their children, others reportedly have hired top chefs to come to their homes to make dinner. One financier created a stir, however. Distraught over losses in the stock market, he reportedly grabbed a golf club, threatened employees and started bashing an expensive company car. Authorities were called to discreetly take him for an overnight stay in a cell at the Oslo Police Station.

*** Police stations around Norway will start reopening to the public next week, more than a month after they closed as part of Corona virus containment measures. Justice Minister Monica Mæland, who’s in charge of both the police and carrying out the measures, said at her first press conference since the Easter holidays began last week that police services will gradually resume, but mostly for filing reports of serious crime, passport issuance and handling residence matters for foreigners in Norway.

*** The City of Oslo has entered into an agreement with the Nordic Choice hotel chain to house people who have tested positive to the Corona virus and can’t be put into isolation at home. Many people in Oslo live in small apartments and share bathrooms and kitchens with other family members or roommates. “Then it’s difficult to isolate yourself and limit the infection risk,” Espen Nakstad of the state health directorate to NRK. City officials are now using empty hotel rooms to offer living quarters to those needing to be isolated from others. They’ll be followed up by health care personnel and hospitalized if necessary.

*** Business is blossoming at florists around the country, at a time when many other businesses have had to close in Norway because of the Corona crisis. Ten-times as many people have been ordering flowers for delivery during just the last two weeks: “We’re talking about 10,000 deliveries every day,” Kjetil Hans Løken, manager of Interflora Norge, told NRK on Saturday (April 11). Many customers are also ordering flowers for themselves. “We’ve never seen this before,” Erling Ølstad of Mester Grønn, a large florist chain in Norway, told NRK, calling it  “a rising trend, considerably strengthened in the past few weeks.”

*** Dentists are worried about not only their own income losses but also the dental health of their patients. Most all dental offices have been forced to close during the Corona crisis, and dentists describe the situation as a paradox: “We address dental health issues but have been placed in the same box as other businesses no longer allowed to deliver their goods or services, in our case health care assistance,” Dr Kristin Aarseth Grøtteland told newspaper Aftenposten. Only patients with acute and painful dental problems can be treated. Dental offices can reopen after the Easter holidays, if they can meet strict new anti-infection measures.

*** Spring cleaning has taken on entirely new dimensions this year, as Norwegians unable to travel during the Easter holidays and confined to their homes have ended up getting rid of lots of accumulated clutter. Home remodelling has also soared, leading to long lines at local garbage dumps and recycling stations. Local media have reported that some residents in Oslo spent hours in their cars, waiting for their turn to cast off everything from gardening debris to stuff cleared out of cupboards, cabinets and drawers.

*** Bars, cafés and restaurants in Oslo with permission to offer outdoor seating got at least a little relief last week. They’re still shut down, but at least they won’t have to pay lease fees for the space they occupy on city sidewalks. They’ll also get their licenses to serve alcoholic beverages automatically renewed, until October of next year.

***Stuck at home and unable to eat out, Norwegians are turning to fancy foods and wine as a means of cheering themselves up during the Corona crisis. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports that sales of exclusive cheeses, locally produced gourmet food and not least fine red wine are booming. “Staying at home has prompted Norwegians to splurge, even in the middle of the week,” DN wrote. Business is brisk at both the state liquor monopoly Vinmonopolet and most all grocery stores, but especially at high-end food retailers that offer premium products.

*** The government minister blamed for not allowing Oslo grocery stores to stay open during the Easter holidays (see item below) claims the decision wasn’t based on his Christian Democrats’ party’s principles, but rather on recommendations from the grocery industry itself. Kjell Ingolf Ropstad has had to defend himself against frustrated Oslo officials and newspaper editorials blasting him for forcing Oslo residents to crowd into grocery stores before most close for five full days, from Thursday through Monday April 13. Ropstad didn’t expect overcrowding would occur, adding that neither the store owners nor their employees wanted to remain open for business, and instead need some time off.

***Norway tops a list over countries viewed as having the best chances  quickly when the Corona virus crisis finally eases. The list from large insurance firm FM Global and published by the BBC puts Norway in first place, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Germany and Finland. It confirms earlier reports and repeated statements from Norwegian officials, that Norway is well-equipped to survive the crisis because of its wealth, social stability and generally well-regarded health care system. Public health officials have reported that the corona virus infection rate has stabilized in Norway, and is even declining in several areas of the country, with Oslo as the epicenter.

*** The City of Oslo was lobbying hard to get state officials to allow grocery stores and pharmacies to remain open during Norway’s five official Easter holidays. Nearly 700,000 people have been forced to stay home in Oslo this year, as part of the state’s Corona containment measures. Oslo’s city government leader, Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party, worries about grocery store crowding and that not everyone will get all their meal shopping completed before stores close from Thursday through Monday. Government Minister Kjell Ingolf Ropstad of the Christian Democrats, however, was unsympathetic. Ropstad opposes any easing of the state law that keeps most stores closed on holidays and Sundays, while also arguing that store employees need some days off after weeks of Corona stress.

*** There’s been a marked decline in the sale of narcotics on the streets of Oslo and other Norwegian cities and towns. Police cite Corona containment measures that have closed borders, disrupted international travel and simply made it tougher for drug smugglers to operate. They specifically cite sharper control of the borders to Sweden and Denmark, reports state broadcaster NRK, while also noting that the drug shortage has sparked “more aggressive” behaviour among drug addicts who can’t get their normal doses at present. “It’s generally positive that access to narcotics has declined,” one police officer told NRK, “but there’s trouble within the drug milieu. There are negative consequences, like an increase in violence and more petty crime.”

*** A new survey of nurses conducted for the national nursing association’s professional magazine Sykepleien found that fully 90 percent are afraid they’ll unwittingly infect patients with the Corona virus. Nurses’ representatives blamed their fears on a shortage of protective gear such as smocks and face masks despite recent shipments to Norway.

*** A Norwegian man who resisted arrest for disorderly conduct spat in the faces of police and threatened that he was infected with the Corona virus. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that he’s now been convicted and sentenced to 75 days in jail for assaulting police officers, making threats and spreading fear. The case was handled rapidly by the Oslo City Court, which ruled that he exhibited utter disregard for Corona containment measures at a time of great uncertainty because of the epidemic.

*** An Oslo hair dresser has been fined NOK 20,000 (USD 1,900) for opening her salon in the Majorstuen district and attending to customers. Police reported she had several customers in the salon when they arrived to inform her that she was violating current Corona virus containment measures. Police also pointed to Norwegian infection prevention laws that deem hair- and skin-care salons, athletic facilities, optometrists and several other businesses as possible sources of infection. The hair dresser accepted her fine and admitted she knew she was breaking the law, but was trying to help customers who needed hair cuts.

*** Around 100 residents and 12 employees of an asylum center in south of Oslo were being transferred and put into quarantine at Norway’s main asylum reception center in Råde, after one of the center’s Norwegian employees tested positive to the Corona virus. The asylum seekers were being moved in two large taxi vans and it was described as “a large operation,” involving people who recently arrived in Norway and speak several different languages. “But they understand how serious this is,” a center official told state broadcaster NRK.

***Corona containment measures are starting to work, contends Norway’s state health director. Dr Bjørn Guldvog, who’s been in quarantine himself, told state broadcaster NRK that new statistics indicate lower death and infection rates “than we could have had without the measures.” Guldvog noted that there’s still great uncertainty tied to the Corona virus, “but we see quite powerful declines” in both infection and death rates when compared to prognoses without the measures first put into place on March 12 and extended last week until April 13.

*** The justice ministry wants to be able to quickly house asylum seekers, in barracks and tents if necessary, if an acute need arises during the Corona crisis. The goal, reports news bureau NTB, is to allow immigration and asylum agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) to sidestep local planning and building regulations if an asylum center needs to be evacuated or if there’s a sudden increase in asylum seekers arriving in Norway. The conservative Progress Party reacted negatively, with its immigration spokesman Jon Helgheim calling it “incredible that the government is thinking about using even more resources on asylum seekers during the crisis the country is now in.” He claimed asylum seekers “put a burden on space and resources that we could have used to save lives.” The government, however, has also committed more than NOK 300 billion to help Norwegians and Norwegian businesses hit hard by the Corona crisis.

*** Syrian refugee groups are offering to shop or run other errands for Norwegians stuck in quarantine or isolation during the Corona crisis. “Now it’s our turn to help,” said Mohammad Abdo, who fled civil war in Syria, now lives and works in Asker and also volunteers to help needy children for Norwegian People’s Aid. He’s among refugees, also in the coastal town of Larvik, who are forming local groups to aid house-bound Norwegian neighbours. Abdo and several of his friends have posted notices on social media to spread word of their services and told newspaper Dagsavisen that they’re not afraid of falling ill with the virus themselves: “Many are afraid of Corona, but after what we’ve experienced in Syria, we’re not.”

*** As Norwegian politicians continue to dole out Corona crisis relief to laid-off workers, stricken businesses and local governments, entrepreneurs aren’t being overlooked. Business and Trade Minister Iselin Nybø announced NOK 2.5 billion (USD 240 million) in additional funding for start-up companies along with new initiatives for lending, research grants and capital that can match investors’ funding. “The reason we’re doing this is because entrepreneurs and start-up companies are so important,” Nybø said. “It’s all about job creation and good ideas. In the critical situation we’re in now, we need to hang on to innovation so we have a lively milieu also when the Corona crisis is over.”

*** Delivery of new trams for Oslo will be delayed, with authorities blaming it on the Corona virus. The trams are being built by CAF of Spain, which has been hit especially hard by the virus. Strict measures imposed by Spanish authorities to limit the spread of the Corona virus forced CAF to halt all production, including that of the 87 new trams that were supposed to being rolling in Oslo this summer. No new delivery date for the first trams has been set.

*** Norwegians who miss going to concerts and museums are increasingly turning to digital solutions. Several popular Norwegian musicians including Aurora and Silje Nergaard have held online concerts and several more are using them to raise funds for charitable organizations. Jarle Bernhoft streamed a concert Friday on behalf of Amnesty International while Odd Nordstoga raised around half-a-million kroner for the Red Cross. Most all the museums in Oslo have arranged for digital visits, with the Munch Museum speeding up distribution of its digital exhibition while both its existing museum in Oslo is closed and the new one’s opening is delayed until autumn. Museum director Olav Henrichsen hopes Munch’s art won’t be censored by Facebook like Picasso’s was, when the Henie-Onstad Art Center in Bærum offered a digital exhibition of several of his drawings. They were deemed to contain “Adult Content” because of nudity.

*** Police in Bergen halted several parties during the weekend, confirming that not everyone is taking the Corona virus epidemic seriously. Police reported seven incidents of parties involving far more than the five persons now legally allowed to assemble. They reported that some party guests coughed in the faces of police, claiming to be infected with Corona, even though they weren’t.

*** Norwegian football star Martin Ødegaard, who should have been playing in a European Championship qualifier for Norway against Serbia in Oslo last Thursday, is instead staying indoors in his home in Northern Spain. While the Corona virus rages in Spain, Ødegaard is reportedly healthy and doing his best to keep training for Real Sociedad, the Spanish team to which he’s on loan from Real Madrid. “He’s taking the situation seriously and doing what he’s told to do from his club,” Ødegaard’s agent Bjørn Tore Kvarme told news bureau NTB.

*** Prime Minister Erna Solberg sent get-well wishes to her British counterpart Boris Johnson, after the British prime minister confirmed he had tested positive for the Corona virus. He wrote on social media that he had “developed mild symptoms” and was self-isolating himself at his official residence at 10 Downing Street in London. He wrote that he would, however, “continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus.” Norway’s Prime Minister Solberg still hasn’t been tested herself, claiming she’s not sick and that testing would thus “be like throwing away a test kit.” She said at a press conference in Oslo Friday that she “hopes Boris will get a light version of the virus and that it goes over quickly.”

*** The City of Trondheim has banned the use of already-controversial electric scooters and bikes offered to the public for rental. City officials claimed their use by the public can further spread the Corona virus. The scooters have been criticized as posing a danger to pedestrians and especially the blind, while also littering streets and sidewalks after being left at random after use.

*** The Corona virus is spreading faster in Oslo than anywhere else in Norway, health officials confirmed this week. Infection rates are three times higher, with the districts of Vestre Aker, Frogner and Gamle Oslo reporting the most cases.

*** A few Norwegian medal candidates at the summer Olympics hope they’ll “be even better” when the games finally play out in Tokyo next year. Confirmation of the Summer Olympics postponement seemed almost anti-climactic in the midst of all the drama surrounding the Corona virus that has set the world on edge. “We’ve really just been waiting for word that the Olympics would be postponed,” Norwegian wrestler and medal candidate Stig-Andre Berge told state broadcaster NRK. Sand volleyball players Anders Moi and Christian Sørum were also relieved and will now work towards competition next year.

*** Latest statistics show that the average age of patients diagnosed with the virus, admitted to hospitals and being treated in their intenstive care units was 59 as of Tuesday March 24. Fully 76 percent of the intensive-care patients are men. The largest portion is aged 50-75, 10 were older and 15 were younger, aged 25 to 49. The average age among Corona fatalities is 87.

*** A decision by officials in Rogaland to allow grocery stores to stay open for the next three Sundays has sparked protests from the Center Party, reports newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad. The Rogaland officials want to allow the REMA 1000 chain to spread shoppers over more days to reduce crowding and infection risk. Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, however, claims Sunday openings will further expose grocery store staff to the virus and wear them out as well. With restaurants and other eateries closed nationwide and more people buying groceries, Vedum thinks it’s more important than ever to maintain Sunday as a day off. He’s won support from national employers’ organization Virke, and sent a letter to the government requesting intervention.

*** The Thon real estate group has offered to postpone lease payments for retail tenants and restaurants that have seen business evaporate during the Corona crisis. Most restaurants have had to close and many suddenly have severe liquidity problems. In addition to relieving tenants from payment demands, Thon is also “in dialogue” with many tenants who fear they’ll ultimately need to file for bankruptcy.

*** Norway’s tall ship Christian Radich was lying in Corona quarantine at the southern end of the Bunnefjord south of Oslo this week with 65 people on board, after returning from a sailing trip to Spain. Around half were youth aged 16 to 25 from all over the country plus 10 volunteers. They were finally allowed to sail up back up to Oslo and disembark on Friday. One of the young men on board said he looked most forward to go home, sleep late in the morning and eat kebab.

*** Among the saddest aspects of the Corona virus crisis and restrictions imposed to contain it are all the funerals that now must be held with only a few people present. Death notices published in local newspapers now are almost all carrying an announcement that “As a result of national restrictions the ceremony will only be for family,” or that “Because of the situation with Corona infection, the funeral and memorial will take place when everything has returned to normal.” Families have told state broadcaster NRK that “it’s very painful that we can’t hold a proper funeral or memorial.” Church services have also been cancelled all over the country, because of bans on all gatherings of more than 50 or, in some communities, even five people.

*** The hard-hit culture and sports sectors were offered a NOK 900 million (USD 86 million) state bailout on Wednesday. Culture Minister Abid Raja announced a crisis aid package aimed at compensating lost ticket revenues and income as a result of recent mass cancellations of concerts and sporting events, along with closures of theaters, cinemas, museums and many other cultural insitutions. “These are very demanding times,” Raja said, while several sports and cultural leaders were already demanding more money. “Losses have amounted to more than NOK 900 million just in March and April,” said a leader at the employers’ organization Virke, fearing that many jobs can disappear without more public support.

*** Tougher border controls that now send returning Norwegians into 14 days of quarantine have stopped many from driving into Sweden to shop. Parking lots at the large shopping centers that cater to Norwegian day-trippers (because of their much-lower prices and taxes) were relatively empty in Nordby and Strömstad, for example. They were packed last week and during the weekend, as Norwegians stocked up before the quarantine rule took effect. “It’s normally full of Norwegian-registered cars here,” Jens Möller of Sveriges Radio reported from the parking lot in Nordby. “It’s as if all the Norwegian customers have disappeared.” The stores were trying to lure Swedish customers with 50 percent discounts on meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy products.

*** Two state secretaries including one of Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s closest advisers, Rune Alstadseter, have tested positive and are in quarantine. The prime minister herself is not, and was leading state budget negotiations among members of her cabinet at a shortened budget conference in Hurdal on Tuesday. Vegard Einan, a member of Solberg’s Conservative Party like Alstadseter, is the other state secretary to have tested positive. Einan works in Norway’s ministry in charge of labour and welfare. Both were said to be home in isolation.

*** Home Guard soldiers have been sent to various Norwegian border stations, to assist efforts at strengthening border control during the Corona virus crisis. They’ll be backing up local police and customs agents, who’ve been charged with turning away foreign nationals at the border if they lack residence permission in Norway. The goal, as with other measures, is to prevent the spread of the virus.

*** Norwegian embassies and consulates have suspended issuance of visas to Norway, as long as Corona containment measures are in place. Tourists are among those being denied entry or asked to leave, a huge blow to Norway’s important tourist industry.

*** Roma migrants mostly from eastern and southern Europe who often beg on the streets of Oslo and other Norwegian cities have been facing empty streets the past several days. Humanitarian organization Kirkens Bymisjon organized bus transport to allow the first group of 80 Roma to travel home to Romania on Sunday.

*** Domestic airline traffic was due to operate as normal this week, while international flights all but slowed to a crawl. Both Norwegian Air and SAS have cancelled upwards of 80 percent of the flights, after the Corona virus drastically reduced demand for travel and Norway’s foreign ministry advised against any. Thousands of airline employees are being laid off. With traffic greatly reduced at most airports, tax free sales operator Travel Retail Norway was laying off around 1,000 employees plus 200 seasonal workers with summer jobs.

*** Companies and organizations hit hard by the Corona virus are all clamouring for financial support from the Norway government, which announced more measures Sunday night to boost liquidity. Among the latest to seek state aid is the Norwegian athletics federation, which already gets substantial funding through the state lottery and the government. Now athletics director Berit Kjøll is seeking NOK 500 million (USD 48 million) to boost liquidity after several large sporting events sporting events and especially football matches were cancelled to keep the virus from spreading within large crowds.

*** With all large concerts cancelled, cinemas and theaters closed and performing artists facing an acute loss of income, efforts are spreading among the public to offer relief. Vega Scene, a new cinema and theater complex in downtown Oslo, stressed in a public announcement of its closure that it now faces “difficult times” along with other branches. “You can support us by not asking for a refund of your ticket,” Vega wrote in its ad. A new movement on social media is urging the same, as part of a collective effort to ease performers’ losses. New Culture Minister Abid Raja has said he’s working on a new crisis package aimed at the entertainment industry that already attracts substantial public funding in Norway.

*** The large diversified food producer Orkla, best known in Norway for its Grandiosa Pizza brand and lots of soup mixes, is among companies that’s busy and earning money during the Corona crisis while most other are experiencing heavy losses. Sales of canned and dry food are up 50 percent, as Norwegians stockpile food that can last a long time. Grocery store shelves were all but stripped of canned goods last week, before an intial hoarding binge eased.”We see that there’s been great demand for food with long-term sell-by dates,” Orkla spokesman Håkon Mageli told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “We have ample stocks, so there’s no need to hoard.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Corona virus spreads in Norway, it keeps creating so much news that we’ve consolidated some of it here. In addition to major news warranting full stories, we’ll be compiling statistics and brief but important Corona-related items in this space, as the virus threat dominates many aspects of everyday life.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund