Elementary and junior high schools, restaurants, free-standing stores, libraries and some sports facilities can reopen in the Norwegian capital from Wednesday (February 3). Private social gatherings will still be limited, though, and neither bars nor restaurants can serve alcohol.
“There’s now some room to begin a gradual and controlled re-opening of Oslo,” city government leader Raymond Johansen said at a press conference late Monday afternoon. That’s because the city has cut its numbers of new infection cases by roughly half since the the latest lockdown began in early January.
“With the exception of during the actual Christmas holidays, we haven’t had lower infection levels since October,” Johansen said. He and his Labour Party colleague Robert Steen, in charge of health policy in Oslo, thus decided to ease up on the crackdown that was compounded just last weekend after an outbreak of a new strain of the Corona virus in Nordre Follo, just south of the capital.
That forced the state government to impose strict new controls that eventually spread to 25 municipalities in the greater Oslo metropolitan area. While many of them have been eased, Oslo remained at the highest level of anti-infection measures but was allowed to alter that as city leaders saw fit.
From ‘red’ to ‘yellow’
Now Oslo schools will return from “red” to the “yellow” level for day care centers amd schools, which also allows classroom teaching as opposed to digital instruction at home. Widespread use of digital instruction, with students sitting at home, has been hotly debated and roundly criticized as not providing a good enough education and isolating children and youth far too much.
High schools (videregåendeskoler) will remain at the “red” level, however, and colleges and universities will continue to have to rely mostly on digital instruction to students at home.
Top-level competitive sports can resume training sessions and some organized outdoor activities for youth and adults can be held again. Libraries can reopen along with many stores but shopping centers and large warehouse-type stores must remain closed since they’re seen as attracting too many people.
Small gatherings OK again at home
Swimming pools can open for school swimming classes and training for children and youth, and restaurants, bars and cafés can reopen from Wednesday but they still can’t serve alcoholic drinks.
“People can also invite guests home again,” Johansen said, but no more than five people in addition to those in the household and no more than 10 people total. Health Minister Bent Høie has, however, urged against inviting guests to holiday homes (hytter) in addition to immediate family members.
Oslo’s city leaders cautioned that the new British strain of the Corona virus continues to cause concern and uncertainty, meaning the public must be prepared that Corona containment rules can continue to change, sometimes quickly. He reported a total of 61 confirmed cases of the British mutation in Oslo, six of which couldn’t be tied to any specific source of infection.
Seven of the cases occurred in Oslo nursing homes while the remaining 54 were spread over various districts within the capital.
“I have spoken with lots of people who are frightened and worn out by all this,” Steen said at Monday’s press conference. “Many think a new round of tough restrictions and uncertainty is too much, so I hope everyday life can be a bit easier when we ease some of these anti-infection measures.”