Oslo tightens restrictions at schools and kindergartens as Covid-19 infections rise

Oslo is to introduce new restrictions on schools and kindergartens in an effort to stem increasing Covid-19 infection numbers in the city.

Oslo tightens restrictions at schools and kindergartens as Covid-19 infections rise
Photo: Kamil Tatol on Unsplash

The measures, which will stay in place until Easter, include the closure of indoor leisure activities. Schools will not be closed but more classes will be attended online from home, broadcaster NRK reports.

Executive mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen called the infection situation in the city “very serious” as he announced the new restrictions.

“The interventions we have made now longer look as though they are effective,” he said.

According to the city council, the spread of the more infectious B117 variant is related to the increase in the prevalence of the virus in Oslo since January, NRK reports.

Infections are increasing in all age groups, including amongst 10-19 year olds.

“I’m asking you to see as few people as possible, have as few visitors at home as possible. Social gatherings indoors should now be avoided completely,” Johansen said.

“We cannot risk having the worst period of the whole pandemic in front of us,” he added.

The measures put forward by the Oslo government are as follows:

  • Red’ level at schools and kindergartens, meaning reinforced infection control measures and smaller groups. To take effect from Thursday.
  • ‘Red’ level to remain in place at upper secondary schools.
  • Youth activity clubs (fritidklubber) remain closed.
  • All indoor leisure activities banned.
  • Maximum outdoor group size of 10 people.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg noted in parliament on Tuesday that around 70 percent of Covid-19 infections in Norway over the last two weeks had occurred in Oslo and neighbouring Viken county.

The leader of the municipal health council, Robert Steen, told NRK that hospital admissions had increased by 450 percent.

Official data shows the city has seen 2,642 cases of the virus in the last two weeks, including 293 in the last daily update.

Local restrictions in the capital were first introduced on November 10th.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”