Norway keeps Covid-19 restrictions in place for national day celebrations

Covid-19 restrictions remain in place during Norway's May 17th national day on Monday for the second year running.

Norway keeps Covid-19 restrictions in place for national day celebrations
A typical May 17th parade Hans Birger Nilsen Flickr

Nationally, parades of up to 200 people are allowed provided social distancing is observed. Restrictions in the capital Oslo are somewhat tighter, with public assembly limited at 10 people.

Local rules should be checked before heading out to any event.

Although coronavirus restrictions have not been eased for May 17th, the deputy director of the Norwegian Directorate of Health Espen Nakstad encouraged the country to enjoy its national day.

“Be considerate to others, avoid crowds and have a nice time,” Nakstad told newspaper VG.

The senior health official also stressed the importance of ensuring visiting family members have no symptoms and are not currently required to isolate.

Up to five people can be invited to celebrate at private homes or gardens, with vaccinated people not counting towards that total.

A family of more than five (from the same household) may be invited if there is enough space to social distance.

“Unvaccinated guests not from the same household should keep a one-meter distance,” Nakstad told VG.

Speaking last month, the Minister for Culture Abid Raja made it clear that restrictions would not eased for the sake of the annual celebration.
“I stand here again to say that the pandemic will mark the celebration of our national day this year as well,” Raja said. 
“Remember that not gathering is to show care for those you love, for the environment and society,” he added.
In general national measures applied on Monday unless there were stricter local measures in place. 
May 17th, or constitution day, commemorates the signing of Norway’s constitution in 1814. Many people like to meet friends and family, celebrate and have parties.
Normally marching bands and parades are also a big part of the day and everyone dresses in their national costume, or bunad. 
Nakstad earlier said some celebrations would still go ahead. 
“Those planning 17th May celebrations can use the infection control advice as a starting point for planning,” he told VG in April.
The following guidelines were issued ahead of May 17th. 
  • Where events are allowed, gatherings should be avoided across municipal boundaries, and that all planned events should take place locally
  • May 17th parades are covered by Covid-19 restrictions regarding events. If events are advised against or prohibited, then they shouldn’t take place 
  • If there is a risk that children’s parades, which are a big part of May 17th celebrations, will lead to a gathering of people, they should be cancelled. 
  • In areas where events are prohibited, marching bands will still be able to play for residents in announced pop-up performances 
  • Marching band practice ahead of May 17th must follow national and local advice.

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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.