Norway will scrap most of its remaining COVID-19 lockdown measures with immediate effect as an ongoing spike in coronavirus cases is unlikely to jeopardise health services, the prime minister says.
Restaurants will again be allowed to serve alcohol beyond 11pm, working from home will no longer be mandatory and the current limit of 10 visitors in private homes is removed, Jonas Gahr Stoere said on Wednesday (Australian time).
The announcement follows similar decisions by neighbouring Denmark and other European countries, including Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands, which have eased or removed restrictions in recent weeks to try to restore normality.
In December, Norway went into partial lockdown to combat the fast-spreading Omicron variant but most of those measures were no longer needed, the government said.
“Even if many more people are becoming infected, there are fewer who are hospitalised. We’re well protected by vaccines. This means that we can relax many measures even as infections are rising rapidly,” Mr Stoere said.
The country will keep basic distancing measures, however, asking people to stay at least one metre apart and to wear face masks in crowded settings, thus still hampering some businesses such as nightclubs and entertainment venues.
In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has told local radio it is too early to know if virus measures may need to return.
“I dare not say that it is a final goodbye to restrictions,” she said.
“We do not know what will happen in the autumn. Whether there will be a new variant.”
Denmark, a country of 5.8 million, has in recent weeks registered more than 50,000 daily cases on average while the number of people in hospital intensive care units has dropped.
The head of the Danish Health Authority, Søren Brostrøm, told Danish broadcaster TV2 that his attention was on the number of people in intensive care, rather than on the number of infections.
He said that number had “fallen and fallen and is incredibly low”.
Denmark has 32 coronavirus patients in ICUs – down from 80 several weeks ago.
The most visible restriction disappearing is the wearing of face masks, which are no longer mandatory on public transportation, shops and for standing clients in restaurant indoor areas.
Authorities recommend mask use only in hospitals, health care facilities and nursing homes.
Another restriction that no longer is required is the digital pass used to enter nightclubs, cafes, party buses and to be seated indoors in restaurants.
Health authorities urged people to get tested regularly so the country can “react quickly if necessary,” as Health Minister Minister Magnus Heunicke said last week.
Danes “have been very successful in our national vaccine program throughout 2021, a lot of people have received two vaccination shots, and a lot have received three doses as well, and many of those doses were provided in the fourth quarter of 2021,” Jens Lundgren, a professor of viral diseases at the Copenhagen University Hospital told the Associated Press.
More than 60 per cent of Denmark’s population over the age of 12 have had the third shot, according to official figures.