Norway tightens rules on gatherings and foreign workers as COVID-19 spreads

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will tighten restrictions on gatherings and foreign workers entering the country after a rise in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Kindergarten children wait at the entrance to Arstad Brannstasjon kindergarten after its reopening, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Bergen, Norway April 20, 2020. NTB Scanpix/Marit Hommedal via REUTERS

Cases are up across large parts of the Northern Hemisphere and authorities have also reported increases in Oslo and other parts of Norway which has long had one of Europe’s lowest rate of infections.

“We need to do more to control the spread of the infection,” Solberg told a news conference.

Indoor public gatherings will be limited to 50 people, down from 200, and people will be only be able to invite up to five guests to their house, down from having 20 gathered in one home.

The government said people from EU countries with high levels of infections would have to quarantine for 10 days when they came to work in Norway from Oct. 31.

Many foreign workers have not had to quarantine up to now but instead took tests before their departure for Norway and after their arrival.

Authorities in Oslo said that, from Thursday, they would make face masks compulsory in indoor public places when social distancing cannot be maintained. Up to now they were only compulsory on public transport.

The nation of 5.4 million had 1,290 virus cases diagnosed last week, up from 941 cases the previous week, according to data from the public health institute. In July, Norway’s weekly tally of new cases had dropped to as low as 53.

Solberg invoked emergency powers in March to shut schools, restaurants, sporting events and a wide range of public and private institutions, then began easing restrictions in the months that followed.

Norway hopes to be able to start vaccinations in the first half of 2021, Solberg said on Friday.

Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche, editing by Nerijus Adomaitis and Andrew Heavens