Norway braces for new Corona rules

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“I am worried,” declared Prime Minister Erna Solberg at yet another government press conference on the Corona crisis Friday afternoon. She warned Norwegians to brace for a new round of tougher Corona-related restrictions, all aimed at hindering the spread of the Corona virus.

A worried Prime Minister Erna Solberg sees no choice but to roll out a new round of tougher Corona containment measures. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Solberg started off her presentation with a rundown of all the new infection and restrictions in Europe, from a new six-week lockdown in Ireland to curfews in France and severe concerns in the UK that hospital capacity is reaching the breaking point. She described the situation in Europe as having gone “from bad to worse.”

Even though Norway continues to be one of the countries in Europe with the lowest infection rates, she noted, there has recently been a round of new outbreaks all over the country, from Hammerfest in the north to Moss in the south. Another 120 people had to go into quarantine in Moss on Friday after several people tested positive following a recent religious gathering. Even more rural areas like Toten have seen a rise in the numbers of people testing positive for the Corona virus.

That’s why Solberg and her government colleagues are concerned, not least after another 270 people tested positive in Norway just in the last day.

“We now have the highest number of patients in the hospital with Covid-19 since May,” Solberg said. “We also see that infection is beginning to spread to older age groups, and there’s a considerable risk that the numbers (of Corona cases) will continue to rise like we’ve seen in Europe.”

Solberg wouldn’t detail exactly what the looming restrictions will involve, claiming later that they’re still being evaluated by health authorities to make sure they’re as effective as possible. She said, however, that they’ll be more targeted, possibly to certain age groups, and may involve regional differences. Newsinenglish.no is aware that some health care treatments scheduled for next week were already being cancelled, possible because they cater to senior citizens who are most at risk.

Health Minister Bent Høie noted that the new Corona containment measures also may be stricter in Oslo (where infection rates have been among the highest in the country) than elsewhere. Solberg and Høie said state health authorities were working closely with Oslo’s city government on possibly stricter measures within the capital.

The goal, according to both Solberg and Høie, is to make every effort to secure control over the spread of infection. Dr Camilla Stoltenberg, who heads Norway’s public health institute FHI and took part in the press conference, fully agreed that new restrictions are important, to ward off the new wave of Corona infection that’s currently underway in Europe.

Vaccine crucial but arrival date still unclear
More than 1.5 million people have now been tested in Norway and Stoltenberg said she hopes a vaccine will be widely available in Norway by the spring of next year. It  won’t be mandatory, and likely won’t initially be used on children, but both she, Solberg and Høie hope as many Norwegians as possible will take advantage of the state’s offer of vaccinations, which will be free of charge when it arrives. “If all goes as we hope, Norway will be allocated vaccine doses during the first half of 2021,” Solberg said.

In the meantime, she appealed to all Norwegians to continue to practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and stay home if feeling ill. She also urged everyone to limit all social contact as much as possible in the weeks ahead, not least this weekend leading up to the unveiling of new restrictions.

“November can be tougher than we had expected,” Solberg said. “Every single one of us must make wise decisions (to limit social contact) every day, even though that’s demanding. The alternative is more infection, more illness, more deaths and even stronger (anti-Corona) measures.”

Solberg said her government was choosing to crack down again now, “in the hope it will allow us to have more normal Christmas celebrations with our closest family. We all want to to be able to live like we did before (the Corona crisis),” she said, “but in order do that, we need a vaccine.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund