Norway lifts all COVID restrictions

Norway Saturday lifted all COVID restrictions as outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg responded to criticism of the move, saying that Norwegian health experts had supported the measure. Norway joins a growing number of countries, including Denmark and Britain, which have removed all domestic COVID-19 restrictions.

“We shall not have strict (coronavirus) measures unless they are professionally justified. People must be allowed to live as they wish,” Solberg told Norwegian newspaper VG late Saturday.

“It has been 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime,” Solberg said on Friday at a news conference. “Now the time has come to return to a normal daily life.”

Norway is the second country in Nordic region to lift COVID-19 restrictions after Denmark did so on September 10th.

The government based its decision on a joint assessment by the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) that there was “little risk” of the epidemic getting out of control in the next few weeks.

Nevertheless, Solberg is still promoting the vaccine: “Even though everyday life is now back to normal for most people, the pandemic is not over. People will still get sick and, therefore, it is important that everyone gets vaccinated,” she said.

Solberg said infection numbers were falling, hospital admissions had flattened, bolstering government confidence in its decision, especially as a large part of the population would be “fully vaccinated in a few weeks.”

As of Thursday, 76.2 percent of the population had received the first vaccine dose, while 66.5 percent were fully vaccinated, according to NIPH.

Solberg admitted that the pandemic has yet to be finished as restrictions would be re-introduced if necessary:  “If we get an outbreak with a mutation that the vaccines do not help against, we have to re-enter with national rules. The message is therefore that we are not done with the pandemic. We will not finish the pandemic until the world is done with it,” she said.

Associated Press reports the unexpected announcement to drop COVID restrictions took many Norwegians by surprise and led to celebrations across Norway starting Saturday afternoon and lasting until the early hours of Sunday. AP quoted police reporting unrest in several places, including in the southern city of Bergen and the central city of Trondheim, with the situation most festive in Oslo, with long lines outside Oslo’s nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. Neither vaccination status certificates nor negative test results are required to enter such venues in Norway.

Meanwhile, Finnish health authorities stated they do not recommend a third “booster shot” vaccine for men under the age of 30, saying “we do not have enough information on the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, especially in young men,” reported Itla Sanomat.
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