Raymond Johansen, head of Oslo’s city government, ordered another immediate shutdown Sunday evening of all restaurants, most all stores, art galleries, high schools and adult education programs in the Norwegian capital. The latest shutown, aimed at halting the spread of more Corona virus infection, will remain in effect until at least Monday March 15.
“We have to tighten up even more,” Johansen said at a Sunday evening press conference at Oslo’s City Hall. He was clearly shaken by another rapid rise in Corona infection, after the highest daily increase in confirmed cases since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.
He also implored Oslo residents to avoid all visits at home except for those living alone. Children can also visit with those in their cohorts from school.
There are a few other exceptions. Restaurants can still offer takeaway, for example, and grocery stores, pharmacies and the state-run liquor stores (Vinmonopolet) can remain open.
Elementary schools and day care centers can also remain open but all high schools (videregåendeskoler) must revert to the “red alert” level, a combination of digital and limited classroom instruction, by Wednesday. Johansen noted that much of the infection in the latest phase has occured among teenagers after high schools reopened in early February. The city will also be offering mass testing of all students and increased testing of all teachers.
‘Okay to be sad today’
After three major outbreaks of the Corona virus at construction sites in Oslo, they will also be slapped with new, even more demanding rules for infection control. Violations will be punishable by up to six months in jail.
“I know that I’m asking for a lot here, and that this is very invasive,” Johansen said, adding that he didn’t have any choice. He seemed to be almost overcome with emotion as he ordered yet another shutdown, adding that “it’s okay to be sad today.” The new rules take effect from midnight Monday.
He said there were three main reasons for the recent outbreaks of infection in Oslo: lots of imported infection that’s more contagious, lots more testing that’s revealed new infection, and higher mobility among Oslo residents. It’s the mobility that needs to be cut back, he said, as he urged against most all social contact for at least the next two weeks.
Both he and other city officials also called once again on state officials to revise the country’s vaccination program in order for Oslo to be allotted more vaccine than it has at present. With the highest infection levels in the country despite the strictest Corona containment measures already, Johansen once again asked for more vaccine as the best way to control the spread.