May 7, 2020 / 4:34 PM / a month ago

Norway to reopen high schools, bars and most of society by mid-June

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway aims to reopen by mid-June most of the public and private institutions that have been closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.

Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaks during a news conference on reopening society after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in Oslo, Norway May 7, 2020. NTB Scanpix/Fredrik Hagen via REUTERS

The Nordic country was one of the first in Europe to curb activities to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus, on March 12, and to relax some restrictions once it got the outbreak under control, in late April.

“Thanks to our common efforts since March, we have brought the contamination under control,” Solberg told a news conference. “We can therefore, over time, lighten the toughest measures.”

Norway, like many other European countries, is trying to negotiate a path between the need for reopening society while at the same time avoiding a flare-up in new contaminations.

Kindergartens reopened on April 20, primary schools from first to fourth grade on April 27, but middle schools and high schools have remained closed. They will now resume from Monday.

The government also aims to allow the Norwegian football league to resume on June 16 and planned events with up to 200 participants one day earlier.

Bars and amusement parks could reopen on June 1, while private gatherings of 20 people, rather than five, will be allowed on Thursday.

“We are now in a control phase (of the outbreak),” said Solberg.

TRAVELLING

A person carrying the novel coronavirus in Norway contaminates now on average 0.49 other individuals, compared with 0.7 as of April 6, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. The government’s goal had been to limit the spread to maximum one other person.

Some 7,995 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, up 37 on the previous day. Some 209 people have died of the disease so far.

Foreigners without the right to live or work in the country - tourists, for instance - are still not allowed to enter the country.

But foreigners working in sectors considered crucial, such as agriculture, fisheries or the oil industry, can come in the country though they still have to submit to a 14-day quarantine.

Still, if Norwegians and foreign residents want to go abroad, they will need to undergo a home quarantine upon their return.

Solberg said that this was the main unknown as it was difficult to plan for lifting the quarantine rule as it depended on how other countries managed their own outbreaks.

“We do not have the answer on this yet,” she said.

Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Victoria Klesty; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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