OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will lift travel restrictions to and from European countries that meet criteria regarding their COVID-19 situation from July 15, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.
Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone, currently has some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe.
“We must strike a balance that gives us the most possible safety with the least possible risk of infections,” Solberg told reporters.
From mid-July Norwegians will be able to travel to all countries in the European Economic Area or Schengen without undergoing a ten-day quarantine upon return - but only if these countries respect certain criteria set by Norwegian health authorities.
They include that the number of positive COVID-19 tests done in a country in the last 14 days is below 5% of total tests.
Likewise, European nationals will be able to travel to Norway without undergoing a ten-day quarantine.
The list of countries, yet to be established, will be based on criteria Norway has fixed for travel to and from its Nordic neighbours and will be renewed every 14 days.
Since June 15, citizens and foreign residents of Denmark, Iceland, Finland and the Swedish island of Gotland have been allowed to enter Norway, and without undergoing quarantine.
People from mainland Sweden are not allowed into the country given the higher number of infections there.
On Thursday, the whole of Sweden, including Gotland, is now restricted for travel from Norway, an updated map by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health showed.
Norway moved early to impose a lockdown in mid-March and was able to begin lifting restrictions after Easter. The main restriction still in place is a ban on gatherings of more than 200 people.
Norway, with a population of 5.4 million, had confirmed a total of 8,793 COVID-19 cases, with 249 deaths, as of Thursday.
Editing by Catherine Evans/Kirsten Donovan/Jane Merriman