Norway's capital introduces tightest restrictions of pandemic

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway’s capital will close all middle and high schools and limit visitors in private homes to two people until early April to fight the spread of the coronavirus, the Governing Mayor of Oslo said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Norwegian flags flutter at Karl Johans street in Oslo, Norway, May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

In a separate press conference, Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoeie announced that the government is introducing stricter measures for 52 municipalities surrounding the capital region, including the closure of non-essential shops and in-restaurant dining, although schools will remain open.

The government said last week that tougher national restrictions could be imposed unless local authorities managed to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Nordic country has maintained one of Europe’s lowest rates of infection but now faces a third wave of the disease.

“There is no doubt now that we are in a third wave,” said Oslo Governing Mayor Raymond Johansen, adding the reproduction rate, which measures the number of people infected by each positive case, had risen to 1.5 in Oslo.

“These measures are on top of all the existing ones and, in summary, will be the most invasive measures introduced in Oslo since the start of the pandemic,” he told a news conference.

Kindergartens and elementary schools remain open, but areas of the capital where infections are highest will switch to digital learning for older children attending elementary schools.

In the capital, where the more contagious variant first identified in Britain as B.1.1.7 dominates, local authorities have closed non-essential stores and some schools, and limited restaurants to providing takeaway food.

Most new infections occur among children, authorities have said.

During the first lockdown that began in March last year, schools and nurseries closed along with many services such as hair salons, but shops and restaurants remained open.

As of March 14, the nation of 5.4 million had vaccinated almost 448,000 people with a first dose, and more than 256,000 had also received a second dose, data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health showed.

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