OSLO (Reuters) – Norway must maintain its most recent coronavirus restrictions for now and needs at least another three weeks to assess whether they can be lifted, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Wednesday.
European governments are grappling with the spread of the disease while people want to celebrate Christmas and New Year.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. We must hold on,” Solberg told a news conference, adding that authorities could offer vaccines to vulnerable groups early next year, if European health authorities approve vaccines by the end of this year.
Non-EU Norway will get access to vaccines obtained by the EU, thanks to Sweden, an EU member that will buy more than it needs and sell them to Norway.
Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 150.9 as of Tuesday, the fourth-lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Finland and Ireland, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
But there are regional disparities and authorities are concerned about Oslo and other major cities.
On Nov. 6, Oslo shut theatres, cinemas, training centres and swimming pools, with bars and restaurants no longer able to serve alcohol, causing many to close altogether.
Over the past two weeks, the number of new infections has been stable in the capital.
Nationwide, the reproduction rate has fallen to 1.0 since Nov. 5 from 1.4 between Oct. 26 and Nov. 5, meaning that one infected person infects only one other person on average, down from 1.4 persons previously.
Solberg said that while there were some positive signs, this was not the time to lift nationwide restrictions, which include masks, limiting public gatherings to 20 people and quarantining people arriving from abroad.