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Monday, February 26, 2024

Oslo finally prepares to open up again

Restaurants, cafés, bar, cinemas, theaters, museums, exercise studios, public swimming pools and other gathering places will finally be allowed to reopen in Oslo next week, after being shut down since early November. Some limitations will still apply, but the leader of Oslo’s city government said Oslo residents will soon be able “to enjoy the city life we’ve missed for so long.”

Oslo’s long-empty restaurants will be able to welcome back guests from the middle of next week. PHOTO: Nordic Choice Hotels

“This is the biggest step we’ve made towards a reopened city, and it’s absolutely necessary,” said Raymond Johansen of the Labour Party, referring to Oslo’s relatively high unemployment rate and a need to get people back to work. Stores and shopping centers were allowed to reopen earlier this month and now Johansen thinks it’s safe to reopen dining, entertainment and sports venues in a “gradual and controlled” manner.

Face masks and social distancing of at least one meter will still be required, and limits have been set on the numbers of people allowed inside various establishments. Alcoholic drinks can only be served until 10pm, at which point no new guests will be allowed into a bar or restaurant.

‘Worried’ is my middle name
Johansen nonetheless called the reopening from Wednesday, May 26, “a major milestone” on Oslo’s way back to life as residents and visitors knew it prior to the onset of the Corona virus crisis. “We are ending the social closure of Oslo,” he said at a press conference Friday afternoon, just before Norwegians could take off on the last long weekend of the year until Christmas.

He remains worried about the possibility infection levels could rise again, joking that “‘Worried’ is my new middle name.” Oslo is thus maintaining, for example, its limit of 10 people gathering in private homes, but now those vaccinated will be exempted from the 10, in line with more liberal state rules. That means that if a family or group of friends wants to get together, and six of them have all been vaccinated, a total of 16 can meet.

City officials still want to limit overall mobility, meaning that the use of home offices will continue to be urged and the use of public transport will still be discouraged. Entertainment venues that can offer assigned seating, like cinemas and theaters, will still only be able to take in 20 people. It remained unclear whether they’ll reopen under such restrictions, or whether the audience will want to sit through a film, play or concert wearing a face mask.

No guarantees
As Oslo’s top political leader, Johansen has been under enormous pressure to allow a reopening, which comes as the state government is also continuing to gradually ease restrictions nationwide. It’s all possible because infection levels have declined markedly in recent weeks, as have the numbers of people so sick with the Corona virus that they’ve been hospitalized. At the same time, the numbers of Oslo residents who’ve been fully vaccinated keep rising, and that protects them from being infected or infecting others.

Restrictions are also being eased for most gatherings of children and youth, meaning they’ll be able to return to sports clubs and both outdoor and indoor programs. That’s especially important heading into the summer season.

Johansen has said for months that when Oslo reopens, it’s meant to be permanent. He stressed on Friday, though, that he can’t guarantee he won’t have to order a new shutdown if infection levels suddenly rise. The new, more liberal rules will thus be re-evaluated on June 10, when changes or even more liberalization may be announced.

For details of the new, less strict rules in place, click here (external link to the City of Oslo’s website, in Norwegian). Berglund



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