Oslo faces new major lockdown

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Residents of the Norwegian capital were told Friday night to brace for new “drastic” measures to halt the spread of a potentially more deadly strain of the Corona virus. Details were postponed until Saturday, while state and local officials met in crisis meetings Friday night.

More dark Corona shadows were settling over Oslo this weekend, as officials tried to ward off the spread of a new, more deadly strain of the virus. Pictured here: an empty Opera plaza and, at left, the new Deichmann Library. PHOTO: NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund

“We need to act quickly, everyone agrees on that,” the head of Oslo’s city government, Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party, said Friday evening. “We have to do everything we can to stop this virus from spreading at once.”

His comments came after his counterpart in Nordre Follo, a large community just south of Oslo, had announced a shutdown Friday afternoon. Local officials there had registered an outbreak of the new British strain of the Corona virus, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson anounced Friday was more deadly than the original.

At least two elderly residents of Nordre Follo have already died from the new strain and new cases were emerging, not least at the nursing home where both had lived. The municipality with 60,000 residents, 70 percent of whom commute to jobs in Oslo and the surrounding area, was shut down Friday afternoon. Only grocery stores, gasoline stations and pharmacies were allowed to remain open, and residents were told to stay home.

‘Stay home’
Later on Friday evening, the 729 Nordre Follo residents who work at Oslo University Hospitals in the capital were told to stay home. Operations and out-patient treatments of patients from the infection-plagued municipality were also postponed. The large university hospital in Lorenskog, Ahus, was also postponing appointments for patients from Nordre Follo.

Oslo officials and those in other municipalities bordering on Nordre Follo were considering closure of all shopping centers, restaurants, offices and other areas where the public can meet that weren’t already closed. Dr Espen Nakstad of the state health directorate said it was important to have coordinated measures aimed at halting more outbreaks.

“We have the possibility now to gain control over this,” Nakstad told state broadcaster NRK Friday evening. “That possibility won’t last for many more days.”

‘Not the weekend for an excursion’
He urged residents of the entire metropolitan area to cancel any travel plans, even up to family hytter (holiday homes). “This is not the weekend to head off on an excursion,” Nakstad said. Municipalities subject to a new, widespread shutdown include Oslo, Nesodden, Frogn, Ås, Indre Østfold, Moss, Vestby and Enebakk. It may also be necessary to close all schools and day care centers, like Nordre Follo already has done.

Johansen, the head of Oslo’s government, has maintained a hard line against the virus all along and was more than willing to shut down the capital if necessary. “We must impose drastic measures for a short while in order to gain control over this,” Johansen told NRK. “This weekend I appeal to the people of Oslo: Stay home, meet the fewest number of people possible. Think twice before even going to the store, and only for the most necessary things. Wear a face mask.”

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund