Norway again hardens COVID-19 curbs to try to halt spread

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Jonas Gahr Store, Prime Minister of Norway, speaks during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain, November 2, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool

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  • Hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 are up
  • Social distancing, more use of face masks imposed
  • Restaurants must stop serving alcohol at midnight

OSLO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The Norwegian government introduced stricter rules on Tuesday to limit the spread of COVID-19, including a cap on the number of visitors in private homes and shortening the hours bars and restaurants can serve alcohol.

The Nordic country has seen a surge of COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, followed by a rise in the number of hospitalisations.

"We really wished we were done with the pandemic. But the situation is now so serious that we must put in place new measures to keep control," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference.

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"Therefore it will be a different Christmas holiday this year as well," he said.

Households should not invite more than 10 visitors, and people must keep a distance of at least one metre from anyone who is not a member of the household. The serving of alcohol must stop at midnight (2300 GMT) every day, he added.

The measures, imposed for an initial four weeks, are less strict than in European countries such as Latvia or Austria, which imposed full lockdowns, but tougher than in neighbouring Sweden, which on Tuesday recommended, rather than imposed, the use of face masks in public transport.

A one-off exception will be made during the upcoming Christmas holidays, where each household can pick a single day to have as many as 20 visitors, the prime minister said.

Schools are exempt from the distance rules, but must prepare to introduce them if required.

Companies hit by the restrictions will receive compensations from the government, Finance Minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum said.

For the first quarter of the year, the government also plans to suspend a per-seat tax normally imposed on airlines.

The government last week reimposed some restrictions on travellers, requiring that anyone arriving in the country must test for the coronavirus and that people wear face masks in most crowded places, but infections have still continued to rise.

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Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, Editing by William Maclean

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