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Norwegians urged to avoid travel abroad to limit virus

The SeaDream I ship is seen at the quay after it docked due to a suspicion of coronavirus infection on board, in Bodo Norway August 5, 2020. Sondre Skjelvik/NTB Scanpix via REUTERS

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegians should avoid all travel abroad, even to countries with few COVID-19 cases, to prevent a resurgence in the coronavirus, the health minister said on Friday.

“There is still little contamination in Norway but we see increased contamination in countries that used to have control over their situations,” Bent Hoie told a news conference.

While not a member of the European Union, Norway belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone. It had some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe in the early phase of the pandemic before gradually lifting them from June.

In another move, bars and restaurants may no longer serve alcohol after midnight, Hoie said.

Authorities would also issue fresh recommendations on wearing face masks on Aug. 14, he said. Norway and other Nordic countries, unlike many other European nations, are not currently mandating them in public spaces.

The one exception, Hoie said, would be for people arriving from countries that Norway has placed on a ten-day quarantine, including France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Effective immediately, such travellers must wear face masks from the moment they cross the border, or arrive at the airport, until they reach their homes to start quarantine.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said authorities would put on hold a planned easing of restrictions and reimpose others to prevent a return to full lockdown.

With a population of 5.4 million, Norway has seen an increase in infections in recent days. It had a total of 9,468 cases as of Friday, up 59 from the day before, with 256 deaths, according to the Norwegian Public Health Institute.

Editing by Giles Elgood