Prime Minister Erna Solberg and her government have decided not to move forward with the next phase of their program to ease Corona virus-related restrictions. “We choose to wait until we see how the mutated Delta strain of the virus affects the (infection) situation,” Solberg said at a press conference on Monday.
The move comes after lots of optimism that Norway’s so-called “re-opening program” was proceeding as hoped last spring. Its fourth phase was due to click in later this week, but now Solberg fears the risk of re-opening too quickly.
That could, according to Solberg, set off a fourth wave of Corona infection among those who still aren’t vaccinated and among those who have received only their first shot so far. Around 30 percent of Norway’s population is fully vaccinated. Around 65 percent of those over age 18 (more than 2.8 million) have received their first shot.
Solberg noted how health care officials in Norway as well as abroad think the new and highly contagious Delta strain, which first emerged in India, will dominate in Norway within a few weeks. “It’s important to limit that development,” Solberg said. “The Delta variant is more contagious and those who’ve only had their first dose of the vaccine are less-protected.”
She also worries that vulnerable groups of Norwegians with weaker immune systems could also be swept up in a fourth wave of Corona infection.
“We want, therefore, to see what happens with the infection situation before we proceed with a reopening,” Solberg said, adding that Norwegian health authorities were following developments closely “both here at home and in Europe.”
Solberg said a new evaluation will be made in a few weeks, in the hopes that remaining Corona restrictions can be further eased either by the end of July or early August. She cautioned, however, that both schools and day care centers should be prepared to revert from the current “green” level (at which operations are fairly normal) back to the “yellow” level that involves instruction only in cohorts (small groups of pupils) and other infection-control measures.
“Phase Four” of the national reopening plan that already lags initial plans would have brought the country “almost back to normal,” apart from ongoing social-distancing of at least a meter and demands for infection prevention measure in public places. After that, life would return pretty much to how it was before the Corona crisis shut down Norway on March 12, 2020 but with increased preparedness. Solberg doesn’t expect that will occur before September at the earliest.
Solberg did have some good news on Monday, noting how travel and entry requirements have been further eased, large portions of society have already reopened and even the use of home offices is no longer demanded. She added that there will be some more easing, in line with recommendations from both the state health directorate and the state public health institute.
From Thursday (July 8), as many as 7,000 people will be able to gather for outdoor events that have assigned seating, and 3,000 for events without assigned seating, as long as organizers only allow in people with Corona certificates that verify their vaccinations.
Indoor events offering assigned seating can also be held for as many as 3,000 people who have Corona certificates and for 1,500 people without assigned seating. “This will make it easier for organizers to arrange festivals and other events this summer,” Solberg said.
Organizers will also be able to allow people holding Corona certificates to enter events after midnight.