Norway COVID-19 infections must decline before easing restrictions, PM says

FILE PHOTO: Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg visits troops of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group in Pabrade, Lithuania September 8, 2020. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

OSLO (Reuters) -Norway’s COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalisations must decline before the government will begin to unwind restrictions on social interaction, Prime Minister Erna Solberg told parliament on Wednesday.

Solberg presented a four-step plan for easing Norway’s restrictions, and said the first three steps could be completed by the end of June unless new setbacks emerge.

She did not say how long the fourth phase, which will still contain some restrictions, is estimated to last.

“Before we open up we need to see low and stable infection rates. It is important that the number of hospitalisations come down from today’s level,” Solberg said.

The government’s best estimate is that everyone aged 18 or older will have been offered their first vaccine shot by end-July, Solberg said.

Solberg had originally planned to present a plan for re-opening the country before Easter, but instead introduced tougher national measures, such as a ban on the public serving of alcohol and a mandatory 10-day quarantine at a designated hotel after returning for holidays abroad.

Norway has had some of Europe’s lowest rates of infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic early last year, but has started seeing a rapid increase in hospitalisations led by more contagious variants of the virus.

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