Norway will intensify restrictions and speed up vaccinations in an effort to stem the expected wave of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Jonas Stere announced last night.
Introducing the fourth in a series of measures in just two weeks, the government announced that the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants will be banned, gyms and swimming pools will be closed for most of their customers, while stricter rules will be applied in schools. "There is no doubt. The new variant is changing the rules. That is why we need to repeatedly act quickly," Stere said in a televised press conference.
"Inaction now could have negative consequences for society, not just for health services and municipalities,"
To speed up the pace of booster shots, the government said the armed forces and pharmacies would assist in the campaign. The time between the second and booster shot will be reduced to 4.5 months for all persons over 45 years of age. This will be mandatory for medical staff.
By mid-January, the booster dose is expected to be extended to all age groups of the population.
Teleworking will become mandatory - if possible - and mask use will be extended. Authorities also proposed canceling some sports. The measures will take effect from tomorrow at midnight and will last for four weeks.
Norway has a record number of infections and hospitalizations, in part due to the spread of the Omicron variant, which is expected to become the predominant one in the country in the coming days.
"Inaction now could have negative consequences for society, not just for health services and municipalities," the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) warned. If no effective measures are taken, from the beginning of January 90,000-300,000 new cases of COVID-19 may be recorded daily, this in a country of 5.4 million inhabitants.
To date, 958 Omicron cases have been identified across the country, of which 472 are in Oslo.