Norway caps indoor gatherings to ward off coronavirus

Health

Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov from Russia looks out of the window during a stopover at Helsinki airport in Finland, Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Muratov is heading to Oslo in Norway where he will be awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize along with fellow journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines. The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited their fight for freedom of expression, stressing that it is vital in promoting peace. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Norwegian government is introducing a 10-person limit for gatherings at private homes to counter an uptick in COVID-19 cases, although the number will be increased to 20 on Christmas and New Year’s eves. It also is capping attendance at public events without assigned seating at 50.

In addition, the government said late Tuesday it was advising people in Norway to work from home when possible and reintroducing a social distancing requirement calling for 1 meter (3.3. feet) between restaurant customers.

Face masks will be mandatory where the distance requirement cannot be met.

The measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and are set to last for four weeks, the government in Oslo said.

“We consider the situation as being serious. Both delta and omicron infections are increasing in Norway. The number of people who are admitted to hospitals and intensive care units is increasing,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said.

Camilla Stoltenberg, the head of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said during a news conference with the prime minister that among the infection trends the government monitors, “much points in the wrong direction.”

“Unfortunately, the coronavirus will also cause a lot of infection and serious illness this winter, perhaps more than ever before in this pandemic in Norway,” Stoltenberg said.

“We have already seen this with the delta variant, and it will probably get worse with the omicron variant,” she said.

The Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony scheduled to take place Friday at Oslo City Hall will be scaled down, with fewer guests and participants required to wear face masks, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. The winners of the 2021 peace prize, journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, plan to attend the ceremony.

The two shared the prize for fighting for freedom of expression in countries where reporters have faced persistent attacks, harassment and even targeted killings. A Thursday press conference featuring the pair will take place online “due to COVID restrictions,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said Wednesday.

In neighboring Sweden, authorities recommended that employers give their workers the opportunity to work from home. Starting Wednesday, face masks were required on public transportation when crowding can’t be avoided, Swedish authorities said.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren told Swedish broadcaster SVT the government was prepared to order more public health measures at short notice.

“So far, Sweden has a low spread of infection, but we do not want a more difficult situation,” Hallengren said.

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