Raymond Johansen, known for being a strict leader of Oslo’s city government, is finally opting to remove most of the remaining Corona restrictions in the Norwegian capital. Residents can soon toss their face masks, be served food and drinks until midnight in bars and restaurants and invite more guests home.
“Now we can start to get used to the thought that the state of emergency is soon over,” Johansen said during another press conference Tuesday afternoon.
He and his cabinet are relaxing restrictions in Oslo that have been among the toughest in the country, except for places like Hammerfest, Trondheim and, most recently, Alta, that have been back in lockdown after outbreaks.
Oslo’s rules will now resemble national regulations, from Wednesday. A ban on any more than 10 guests at home will be removed as will limits stricter than the state’s on public gatherings both indoors and outdoors. Face masks are still required in taxis and on public transportation but no longer in stores or restaurants or other indoor public areas. Limits on the numbers of customers allowed in to stores, exercise studios, museums and swimming pools are also removed, nor will people in Oslo be asked to stay two meters apart. One meter will do. Bowling alleys, bingo parlours, amusement parks and other recreational venues can reopen.
Some special Oslo-oriented rules will remain in place. Johansen still wants companies to maintain home offices, and partying high school graduates won’t be allowed to ride around in their noisy buses until at least July 4.
The situation, however, “is looking brighter,” Johansen said, after several weeks with rapidly declining infection rates. Only 239 new cases of the Corona virus were confirmed in Oslo during all of last week. Nearly half of Oslo’s roughly 600,000 residents have also received at least their first vaccination and many are fully vaccinated. That greatly reduces the risk of new outbreaks.
“All signs are that the worst is behind us,” Johansen said. “Oslo has gotten through this, but it’s had a high price and it’s been very tough for many.”
While Johansen actually smiled often during the press conference, he didn’t want to answer any questions about a new crisis brewing within his government. A majority of political parties on the City Council are poised to express a lack of confidence in one of Johansen’s city government colleagues, Lan Marie Nguyen Berg of the Greens Party, and speculation is rising that Johansen and the entire government will step down in protest over complaints that Berg did not properly inform opposition parties of a huge NOK 5 billion budget overrun on the city’s new water project.
“It’s natural for that debate to come up at the City Council meeting (on Wednesday),” Johansen said. He repeated, however, that he still has confidence in Berg.
Others claim that if he accepted her resignation, or asked her to resign, her Greens Party would withdraw from his government and he’d lose his own majority. Political commentators suggest he’s merely positioning Labour to stay in power and tolerate Berg until she’s expected to leave city government this autumn anyway if the Greens win enough votes in September to hang on to a seat in Parliament. Berg is the party’s new candidate for that seat.