The Norwegian government cracked down on Corona again Tuesday, announcing that the strictest virus containment measures will now apply nationwide. That means national prohibition against the serving of alcohol and a maximum of two guests in private homes, among other measures.
“We know that this will prompt negative reaction in areas where there’s hardly any infection,” Health Minister Bent Høie said at yet another press conference Tuesday evening, “but we have to do this. We see that the British virus variant keeps popping up places where there’s hardly been any infection earlier.”
Høie and the rest of the government are also acting, once again, on the advice of state health officials. They’ve been deeply concerned about the extent of the third wave of Corona infection that began crashing over Norway last week. They also warn that areas without infection can suddenly have lots of it almost overnight.
With the Easter holidays looming from this weekend, the government was also under pressure to act and make often-confusing Corona containment measures more uniform around the country. Norway is heading into a week when hundreds of thousands of Norwegians take off for holidays at their holiday homes in the mountains or along the coast, and when extended families and friends often gather. Now they simply won’t be able to, if they respect the rules now in force. If they break the rules, they can face hefty fines of up to NOK 20,000 (USD 2,400).
Among the new rules, in addition to the bans on serving beer, wine or liquor and the limits on guests:
*** closure of all exercise studios, swimming pools, amusement parks, bingo hall and other centers for entertainment
***bans on all organized indoor sports except for professional athletes,
***mandatory hotel quarantine for at least 10 days for everyone returning from unnecessary travel abroad,
The government is also strongly recommending:
***staying at least two meters away from others, instead of the previous one meter,
***avoiding all overnight visits if coming from an area with high infection.
***use of face masks everywhere it’s not possible to maintain two meters distance from others,
***avoid all social contact and travel, except for work or to holiday property in Norway.
The new national rules take effect at midnight on Wednesday and will apply until April 12. They won’t replace local rules that may be even stricter, as they are in Oslo, for example.
Initial reaction from local officials around the country was surprisingly positive, not negative as Høie feared. Cities like Ålesund and Bodø have already experienced how quickly infection can spike, also the Asker area west of Oslo. The political leader of Innland County, Knut Storberget of the Labour Party, welcomed the rules now set by the Conservative government.
“We asked for this,” Storberget told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday night, adding that it’s necessary to streamline regulations around the country, especially given all the domestic travel expected during the Easter holidays.
In the southern coastal city of Sandefjord, the reaction was similar, as it was even in Trondheim, where there hasn’t been a single registered case of new Corona infection during the past five days. “This is what we wanted,” Trondheim’s local chief medical officer told NRK. “We need to keep infection under control.”