Oslo prepares to gradually reopen

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Oslo’s city government leader Raymond Johansen confirmed on Tuesday that the Norwegian capital is getting ready to “gradually” reopen in a “controlled” manner, but not just yet. It will be awhile before stores, cafés, cinemas and restaurants are back in business.

Oslo’s city government leader Raymond Johansen is finally willing to start reopening the Norwegian capital after a six-month shutdown, but can’t say when the reopening will begin. PHOTO: Oslo kommune

The only concrete change, effective immediately, is that Oslo residents can now have as many as 10 people in their homes. That doesn’t mean 10 guests in the addition to household members, but 10 people in total. Outdoor events can also be arranged with up to 10 people present, while up to 20 can take part in organized sports or recreational activity outdoors for children and youth under age 20.

Johansen hastened to add, moreover, that mobility and social contact continues to be discouraged. The new statewide recommendation of just five guests in total is also recommended. That means that a couple can invite up to eight guests (for a total of 10) if necessary for a special occasion, but a total of just seven or less is much more in line with state and local intentions.

“We just wanted to ease the intrusive measures within private homes,” Johansen said, adding, however, that “this still isn’t the time to have big dinner parties.” He also stressed that all standard Corona measures still apply as they will in all reopening situations, with everyone expected to wash hands and stay at least a meter apart.

First of several steps
Oslo has only been allowing two guests at home since last November, and discouraged even that. Tuesday’s relaxation marks the first step in the capital’s reopening, with many more to come in the second step. That’s when “considerably” more places will be able to reopen, including stores, restaurants and even bars, with drinks allowed to be poured until 10pm.

It remains unclear, however, when “Step Two” will take effect. Johansen said his city government members would evaluate the infection situation in Oslo next week and then decide when re-openings can actually occur. Even then, lots of restrictions will be in place, like limits on how many people can be in a store at the same time or how many guests a restaurant will be allowed to serve, and face mask will still be mandatory when moving about.

“Step Three” in Oslo’s reopening plan will extend to cinemas, theaters, concert halls and other public gathering places, in addition to those outdoors. “Step Four” will involve a relaxation of most Corona-related restrictions “and a return to life as we remember it before the pandemic.” Johansen wouldn’t offer any specific dates for when any of the steps will go into force, since it will all be up to infection levels.

‘Unpredictable pandemic’
Johansen was typically serious and cautious in his presentation, stressing that “the pandemic is still extremely unpredictable, just look across the border to Sweden.” It had begun a reopening only to suddenly see infection levels shoot up again to a level that has severely strained hospital capacity. Robert Steen, who has political responsibility for health issues in Oslo, also stressed that the infection situation remains “fragile and uncertain,” and that “we don’t want a fourth wave.”

As Norway’s biggest city and gateway to the country, it also tends to get hit first and hardest with new strains of the Corona virus. “We can go from low- to high infection very quickly,” Steen said. He said the decision as to when “Step Two” will go into effect will be made based on infection levels, hospitalizations and on the degree of vaccinations among Oslo residents. More vaccine is due to arrive in the weeks ahead and the tempo of Oslo’s vaccination program is likely to further improve.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund