Norway's capital tightens lockdown to fight faster virus spread

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s capital Oslo will tighten lockdown measures to combat a sharp rise in coronavirus infections linked to a more contagious variant, the city’s governing mayor said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the cityscape with the new Munch Museum, also called Lambda, to the left, in the Bjorvika neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway November 17, 2020. NTB SCANPIX/Cornelius Poppe via REUTERS

The variant, which was first identified in Britain, started spreading in Oslo in January and now accounts for 50-70% of infections, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Saturday.

On Friday, Oslo registered a daily record of 245 new coronavirus infections.

“We have to tighten the measures,” Raymond Johansen, the governing mayor of Oslo, told a news conference.

The infection numbers rose due to increased mobility, faster virus spread, as well as more testing, he added.

In Oslo, all restaurants, except take-away services, and non-essential shops, except groceries, pharmacies and liquor stores, will have to close from Tuesday, while the “red” level is imposed at upper secondary schools, meaning that students, who were fully back at school, will now do some online learning.

All organised outdoor leisure activities for adults, as well as private gatherings and home visits should be avoided, except for kids, Johansen said.

The city also planned to start mass testing at schools later in March to better track the virus spread.

Oslo has already closed shopping centres due to the spread of the more contagious variant in January.

As of Feb. 25, the nation of 5.4 million has vaccinated close to 320,000 people with a first dose, and nearly 150,000 have received two doses, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was at 70 in the week ending Feb. 21, the third-lowest in Europe behind Iceland and Liechtenstein, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Philippa Fletcher