Oslo orders a new ‘social shutdown’

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City government leaders in Oslo are literally turning off the taps in the Norwegian capital, ordering a halt to the serving of alcoholic drinks at bars and restaurants while also closing most all places where people gather to socialize. The goal is to bring down the city’s soaring Corona infection rate.

Oslo’s city government is all but fencing off social gathering venues like the Opera House and cinemas, in an effort to hinder Corona virus infection. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

From midnight Monday, virtually all social contact will be banned outside of private homes, except for funerals that already face restrictions on attendance. Restaurants or venues used to cater parties won’t be allowed to host weddings or confirmations, for example. Cinemas, physical fitness centers, public swimming pools and athletic facilities, theaters and all venues for culture and sport will be ordered to close except for libraries.

All organized sports for adults will be banned. Children and youth will still be able to hold practice sessions for sports like football outdoors, but won’t be allowed to take part in any tournaments or competition, not out of town either.

Face masks will now be mandatory in taxis along with all other forms of public transport. Stores and shopping centers can remain open for now, but only if they make sure customers can stay at a distance of two meters from one another. City government leader Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party also all but threatened from his podium at a press conference Friday afternoon that “we’ll be watching very, very closely” for violations, suggesting he may end up forcing stores to close, too.

Expects anger and frustration
All current Corona containment measures, which already have been among the strictest in the country, will also remain in force.

“I know that his is tough,” Johansen said. “I know that many people will be in despair, angry and frustrated.” He nonetheless thinks the restrictions that approach a new lockdown in Oslo are necessary to bring high infection rates down.

“We are now imposing a social shutdown of Oslo,” Johansen said, adding that there’s still much social contact among Norwegians despite weeks of warnings. “The infection level is much too high, in the whole country,” Johansen claimed.

His city government’s strict new Corona containment measures come just a day after Prime Minister Erna Solberg urged Norwegians to simply stay home for at least the next four weeks. She is also keen to limit social contact and proposed a long list of recommended restrictions, but gave local governments around the country latitude to decide for themselves which specific rules they should impose.

New crackdown in Bergen, too
City officials in Bergen and its surrounding area also cracked down on Friday, even setting a limit of just 20 people at all public events. Bergen is also closing museums, bingo parlours, swimming pools and other publc fathering places, while ordering a halt to serving alcoholic drinks after 9:30pm. Restaurants, cafés, bars and other serving places must close at 10.

Schools will remain open, meanwhile, both in Oslo and Bergen but many high schools (videregående skoler) were categorized as “red,” meaning they will need to offer instruction remotely. Students in Oslo, officials said, “must be prepared for a combination of home schooling and ordinary classes.” Elementary schools will operate more as usual, but school yards can be divided to keep classes apart and both the children and their teachers must avoid shaking hands, hugging or gathering in large groups.

“This is no longer just a dugnad (collective effort),” Johansen said. “This is serious.” His new orders for Oslo come after earlier anti-Corona measures haven’t had the desired results.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund