Norway removes a large number of coronavirus measures

‘The virus variant that is prevalent now leads to less severe illness than the previous virus variants. Even though many people are becoming infected with COVID-19, lower numbers of people are being admitted to hospital. The vaccines are offering good protection. This means that we can now remove a large number of measures, even though the infection rate is rising quickly,’ says Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

However, the Norwegian Government is keeping some measures for a while longer. This includes the recommendation to keep a 1-metre distance and the requirement to wear a face covering when it is difficult to keep a distance.

‘We are facing difficult times. Very many of us will become infected. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimates that it is possible that as many as 3–4 million people will become infected with Omicron before the summer, and we need to expect a sick leave rate of up to 20 per cent of the workforce. We are therefore keeping a few measures to prevent too many people from becoming sick at the same time and staying home from work,’ states Mr Støre.

The decision is based on the advice of the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, which recommend the removal of many measures now. Following an overall assessment, the Norwegian Government has decided to ease a few more measures than recommended by the health authorities.

‘We must expect the infection rate to rise as a result of the changes. Despite this, it is our view that it is not proportionate to keep more invasive measures which impact on people and the business sector, considering that there is little pressure on the health service at present and sick leave is at an acceptable level,’ says Mr Støre.

These are some of the changes:

  • There is no longer a recommendation regarding the number of guests people can have at home, nor are there attendance restrictions for indoor or outdoor events.
  • The distance requirement is removed for events with designated seating, like the cinema, theatre or church, when people are seated. This means that all of the seats in venues may be used. The organiser must make arrangements for people to be able to keep a distance in the rest of the venue or in the area around the event.
  • The ban on the serving of alcohol after 11 pm and the requirement that alcohol may only be served at tables is removed, but the requirement to operate in accordance with the infection control rules remains.
  • Operation of kindergartens and schools at yellow level is no longer recommended nationally. See the separate press release regarding this.
  • Universities, university colleges, and vocational schools are recommended to strive for teaching requiring that people are physically present. The recommendation to keep a 1-metre distance may be disregarded during teaching.
  • Organised sports and leisure activities may now go ahead as normal both indoors and outdoors for all age groups, with contact where this is necessary.
  • Amusement parks, soft play centres, amusement arcades, etc. may reopen, but they must operate in accordance with the infection control rules.
  • Employers are no longer required to make it possible for people to work from home. They are recommended to consider the extent to which employees may work from home, based on the workplace in question. Companies must also consider how to prevent everyone from becoming sick at the same time.
  • The requirement for arriving travellers to get tested at the border is being removed.

The Norwegian Government aims to remove the final restrictions by 17 February if the situation develops as envisaged. Municipalities may introduce local measures when necessary.

The Norwegian Government does not want to make a greater distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in the national domestic measures. Should the need arise later to introduce stricter measures, use of the COVID-19 certificate at events and venues that serve food or alcohol may be introduced.

‘We have a very high vaccination rate in Norway. Now that we are removing many measures, including the ban on serving alcohol after 11 pm, the requirement that alcohol may only be served at tables, and attendance restrictions for events, there is very little to be gained from introducing stricter rules for unvaccinated people. We do not think that it is expedient to introduce use of the COVID-19 certificate domestically at this time,’ states Ms Kjerkol.

She stresses that unvaccinated people and those who are at great risk of becoming seriously ill should be cautious about or avoid large events or gatherings at venues that serve food or alcohol, as it is known that is difficult to keep a distance.

An exemption is being introduced from the existing requirement to get tested before travelling to Svalbard for permanent residents of Svalbard and people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. All people who arrive in Svalbard must continue to get tested within 24 hours of arrival.

Rising infection rate

‘Many people will become infected in the weeks ahead, and we need to prepare for this. However, now we are able to handle the increase in the infection rate. It is time to change our approach and live more normally. We have been told to be afraid of COVID-19 for almost two years. Going ahead, we need to live with the virus. It is our goal to remove all of the measures by 17 February unless the situation takes a very different turn than expected,’ says Ms Kjerkol.

The hospitalisation rate will increase because very many people will become sick, but there is a much lower risk of being admitted to hospital, compared with earlier in the pandemic. Patients spend less time in hospital, and fewer people need intensive care.

Ms Kjerkol points out that the Norwegian Government has implemented a number of measures to ensure that the pressure on the municipalities’ health and care services remains at an acceptable level, such as removing transmission quarantine, changing the recommendations regarding testing, and a separate package of measures for the health service. The Norwegian Directorate of Health reports that the municipalities’ health and care services have been able to handle the sharp rise in the national infection rate so far. A number of municipalities (250) now have resource lists and emergency preparedness plans for increasing capacity in the services if faced with a large wave of infections. There is little risk of hospitals being overwhelmed now.

‘As the virus is so contagious, and the infection rate is so high, outbreaks of COVID-19 must be expected in nursing homes and care centres. Some people will inevitably experience serious complications, but it is time to treat the virus more like regular seasonal flu. The pandemic will continue to result in hospital admissions and deaths,’ states Ms Kjerkol.

If the burden on the health and care service becomes too high, it may be relevant to introduce stricter measures.

Easing of several TISK (testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine) measures

The recommendation of regular testing in kindergartens, schools and the education sector has already been removed. If necessary locally, municipalities with adequate test capacity may make tests available at schools, universities, etc. This will make tests readily available for people who develop symptoms.

Transmission quarantine is being removed for all people, but it is recommended that household members and corresponding close relations get tested. Other close contacts without symptoms do not need to get tested, but they should monitor their symptoms closely.

Young children, as well as children in primary and lower secondary school, should only get tested if they develop symptoms, even if there is COVID-19 in the household.

Contact tracing has already mainly been made the responsibility of each person, but the municipality can provide assistance when necessary. We recommend that people with COVID-19 notify their known close contacts, so that they can monitor their symptoms closely.

The ensuing easing of TISK measures means that the requirement to register guests at venues that serve food or alcohol/participants at events is being removed. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health points out that use of the Smittestopp app may cover the need to notify other participants at an event.

The period of isolation is reduced from 6 to 4 days. The change in the isolation period also applies to people who already have COVID-19 and are currently in isolation. People with COVID-19 who have symptoms must also have been fever-free for at least 24 hours before ending isolation. The Norwegian Government will regularly assess the isolation rules.

Travellers must cover the costs of testing in connection with international travel. If they have capacity, the municipalities may offer testing in connection with international travel, with the cost to be covered by the traveller.

These are the national measures

General advice

  • Practice good hand and cough hygiene.
  • Get vaccinated.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you develop respiratory symptoms.

Distance and social contact

  • A recommendation to keep a 1-metre distance from other people than those within their household or corresponding close contacts. Some exemptions from this recommendation/requirement can be found in the sections on higher education and events and gatherings and organised sports and leisure activities.
  • The recommendation to keep a 1-metre distance does not apply to children in kindergarten or primary school.
  • The recommendation to keep a distance does not apply to adults who work with children, adolescents, and vulnerable groups.
  • People at risk of serious illness and unvaccinated adults should shield, but not go into isolation. Social contact is important.
  • People who are at risk of serious illness and unvaccinated adults should take particular care about or avoid large groups and events at venues that serve food or alcohol, as it is known that it is difficult to keep a distance, as well as unnecessary travel to areas with a high infection rate.
  • No recommended restriction on the number of guests in private homes.
  • Good ventilation is recommended when people spend lengthy periods of time in the same room as people outside their household or corresponding close relations.

Face coverings

  • A requirement to wear a face covering when it is not possible to keep a distance of at least 1 metre in shops, shopping centres, venues that serve food or alcohol, public transport, taxis, and indoor station areas. The requirement also applies to employees unless physical barriers have been put in place.
  • There is no requirement to wear a face covering while sitting at a table at a venue that serves food or alcohol or at an event while in designated seating.

Organised sports and leisure activities

  • Organised sports and leisure activities may go ahead as normal both indoors and outdoors for all age groups, with contact where this is necessary.
  • Elite sports may go ahead as normal.

Kindergarten, school, and after-school programmes

  • A requirement to operate in accordance with the infection control rules. For kindergartens, schools, and adult education this means, in practice, a requirement to operate at green level measures in line with the traffic light model.
  • The national recommendations regarding the level of measures in kindergartens, schools, and adult education are removed.
  • The recommendation of regular testing is removed.

Higher education

  • A requirement to operate in accordance with the infection control rules.
  • A recommendation to attempt to strive for teaching requiring that people are physically present. Arrangements must be made for students to be able to study as normal and to have the best student life possible within the current recommendations.
  • The recommendation to keep a 1-metre distance may be disregarded in connection with teaching.
  • The recommendation of regular testing is removed.

Work

  • A recommendation of a 1-metre distance.
  • Employers are recommended to consider the extent to which employees may work from home, based on the workplace in question. Such an assessment must focus on factors including the probability of infection at the workplace and vulnerability to high concurrent sick leave.
  • The distance requirement must be met.
  • A recommendation to wear a face covering when it is not possible to keep a distance, unless physical barriers like partitions, etc. have been put in place.
  • The recommendation to work from home and wear a face covering does not apply to services where this prevents employees from performing necessary statutory tasks for vulnerable groups, as well as children and young people.

Events and gatherings

  • No attendance restrictions for private events.

Public events

  • No attendance restrictions.
  • A requirement to operate in accordance with the infection control rules.
  • A requirement that organisers familiarise themselves with the relevant infection control standards and follow them.
  • The organiser must ensure that all of the people present at events are able to keep a distance of at least 1 metre from people who do not belong to the same household or are corresponding close relations. An exemption is granted from this requirement for people in designated seating. This makes it possible to fill every seat in a venue when everyone in the audience is in designated seating. The organiser must make arrangements for people to be able to keep a distance in the rest of the venue or in the area around the event. There is also an exemption from the requirement to ensure that everyone in certain groups can keep a 1-metre distance, including participants at cultural and sports events, participants on certain courses, and people who belong to the same cohort in kindergarten or primary school.
  • Organisers who plan events for audiences of over 200 people must prepare a written plan for compliance with the infection control measures at the venue for the event. The organiser should mention and explain non-compliance with the infection control measures mentioned in the relevant infection control standard.

Venues that serve food or alcohol

  • The requirement that alcohol may only be served until 11 pm and that alcohol must be served at tables is removed.
  • The venue must ensure that all guests can keep a 1-metre distance from other people than those within their household or corresponding close relations.
  • Venues that serve food or alcohol must not organise activities that naturally entail a shorter distance between guests than 1 metre, e.g. dancing.
  • The requirement to register guests is removed.

Testing, quarantine, and isolation

  • People who are infected with COVID-19 must go into isolation for 4 days. People with COVID-19 who have symptoms must also have been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever relief medication. This applies to all virus variants. The new rules regarding the duration of the isolation period also apply to people who are in isolation when the rules enter into effect.
  • Statutory quarantine is being removed for all close contacts who are household members or corresponding close relations of the person with COVID-19.
  • Household members and corresponding close relations are recommended to take a test every day for 5 days after their last close contact with the infected person.
  • People who cannot avoid close contact with the person with COVID-19 during the isolation period should also take a test every day during the isolation period, and then every day for 5 days after isolation has ended – a total of 9 days.
  • The test should be a self-test, but it can also be a rapid antigen test administered by health personnel or a PCR test.
  • Only people with symptoms are recommended to get tested. Other close contacts without symptoms are not recommended to get tested, but they should monitor their symptoms closely.
  • Young children, as well as children in primary and lower secondary school, should only get tested if they develop symptoms. This also applies if there is COVID-19 in the household.
  • Household members and corresponding close relations of a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 are recommended to wear a face covering indoors at public venues and to avoid large gatherings and events for 10 days after the close contact. They should also monitor their symptoms for the entire test period. If they develop symptoms, they should stay home and get tested.
  • The recommendation of regular testing in kindergartens, schools, and higher education is removed.
  • If necessary locally, municipalities with adequate test capacity may make tests available at schools, universities, etc. The reason for this is to make tests readily available for people who develop symptoms.

Contact tracing

  • People with COVID-19 are responsible for notifying their close contacts when they receive a positive test result, but the municipality may provide assistance if necessary.
  • The municipalities are asked to implement systems for people to register their positive self-test results.
  • People with COVID-19 are recommended to register their positive test result in the Smittestopp app.

Operation in accordance with the infection control rules

  • This involves a requirement to ensure that it is possible to keep a distance of at least 1 metre from people who do not belong to the same household or are corresponding close relations, and for the enterprise to have drawn up procedures for good hygiene, good cleaning, and ventilation.
  • A requirement for kindergartens, schools, and other training and educational institutions, including higher education, to operate in accordance with the infection control rules.
  • The following other enterprises must operate under the infection control rules to remain open: libraries, museums, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor swimming pools, water parks, spa facilities, hotel pools, fitness centres, shopping centres, shops, trade fairs, temporary markets, amusement parks, soft play centres, amusement arcades, etc.

Svalbard

  • People who can document that they are permanent residents of Svalbard and people who can document that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 are exempt from the requirement to get tested prior to departure to Svalbard.
  • All people who arrive in Svalbard must continue to get tested within 24 hours of arrival.

Travel – arrival in Norway

  • All travellers arriving in Norway must complete registration prior to arrival. This also applies to Norwegian citizens.
  • A requirement of documentation of a negative test taken before arrival for people who cannot produce documentation that they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.
  • The requirement to get tested at the border is removed.

SOURCE