Oslo eases coronavirus restrictions

From Wednesday, the majority of local Covid-19 restrictions in the Norwegian capital, including limits for guests at home, face masks and social distancing, will be eased to be more in line with national measures.

Oslo eases coronavirus restrictions
Oslo city centre. Photo by Metro Centric Flickr.

The announcement was made by Oslo’s Executive Mayor, Raymond Johansen, at a press conference in the Norwegian capital. 

The measures will be lifted midnight Wednesday and will bring restrictions in Oslo mostly in line with the national rules across Norway. 

“As of tomorrow, large parts of the corona rules will be removed in Oslo,” the city’s executive mayor said at the press conference. 

“The gradual, controlled opening of Oslo has been a success. Many of the rules that the people of Oslo have been expected to live with are now being removed, and we will essentially live with the same corona rules as people elsewhere in Norway,” he added.

Local restrictions for indoor and outdoor events are being lifted, along with the limit on having more than ten people in private homes. 

The easing of measures will also see social distancing cut in half to one metre, and facemasks will now only be mandatory on public transport and in taxis. 

The new rules mix steps three and four of the capital’s five-step plan to lift measures and reopen the city. 

The decision to lift coronavirus restrictions comes one week after Oslo City Council decided to extend Covid measures following an 87 percent rise in infections two weeks ago. 

READ ALSO: Oslo extends coronavirus measures after cases rise by 87 percent 

Last week, however, 293 coronavirus infections were registered in Oslo, the lowest number since last autumn. 

From Wednesday the new measures will be: 

  • The ban on having more than ten people gathered in private homes is lifted. 
  • Local restrictions for sports, leisure activates and leisure clubs is removed and replaced with national limits. 
  • Bingo halls, bowling alleys, arcades, playgrounds and similar venues can reopen. 
  • Local capacities for shops, malls, gyms, museums, galleries, and spas are removed.
  • Requirements for face masks in shops, gyms, restaurants and so on are lifted. Face masks will still be required in taxis and on public transport. 
  • Russ celebrations will be prohibited until July 4th. 
  • Working from home will also be encouraged to continue until July 4th. 
  • Alcohol can be served until midnight in Oslo until July 4th, even if national restrictions change to allow later alcohol service.
  • The recommendation to avoid unnecessary public transport will also continue.
  • Social distancing of one meter 

Current national rules that will apply in Oslo following the measures being lifted are: 

  • Indoor, 50 people are allowed at events without fixed, assigned seats and 200 people at events with fixed designated seating. 
  • For private gatherings in public places, such as restaurant bookings, up to 20 people can meet indoors and up to 30 outdoors. 
  • Outdoors, 600 people are allowed in a public place, with fixed assigned seats, divided into three groups, for example, at a stadium. Once national rules for events and Covid certificates change, this will increase to up to 5,000. 

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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.