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HALLOWEEN

Norwegian minister says kids can celebrate Halloween with classmates

Norway’s education minister Guri Melby says it is okay for children to mark Halloween this year despite the social restrictions currently in place due to Covid-19.

Norwegian minister says kids can celebrate Halloween with classmates
Illustration photo. AFP

Melby commented on Halloween at a press briefing on Thursday reported by Norwegian media including Aftenposten.

Increasing cases of coronavirus in parts of the country have resulted in new national measures aimed at reducing the spread of the virus and local restrictions are in place in Oslo and Bergen.

The national measures include a limit on social gatherings, meaning that a maximum of five friends or family may be invited to any private gathering.

Exemptions to this rule apply for children of kindergarten age and school children who are hosting Halloween or birthday parties – they are allowed to invite more than five friends.

Melby reiterated this exemption for kids in comments to the press, and said it was important to keep such celebrations within normal class or friendship groups to avoid leaving anyone out, according to Aftenposten’s report.

“I sympathise with teachers and other staff who think it’s hard to find solutions. But also with young people who will have a boring autumn,” Melby said.

The approach contrasts with neighbouring Denmark, where authorities have advised against traditional Halloween celebrations. Denmark currently has a nationwide assembly limit of 10 people and more Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations than Norway.

The exemption only applies to young children, however. Secondary schools (ungdomsskole) and further education (videregående skole) are not allowed to have extended Halloween parties.

Bjørn Guldvog, director of the Norwegian health authority, said that children also do not need to observe social distancing rules and that parties can take place for children from the same group or cohort. The health official also stressed the importance of including children who might find themselves otherwise left out.

READ ALSO: Norway registers second-highest daily total of new Covid-19 cases

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COVID-19

Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death. 

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