Norway in partial lockdown as Omicron 'changes the rules', PM says

2 minute read
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
  • Omicron wave requires tougher measures, PM says
  • New restrictions hit bars, restaurants, gyms
  • Stricter COVID-19 quarantines imposed
  • Fears new cases could reach 300,000 per day in Jan
  • Currency weakens vs euro

OSLO, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Norway will further tighten restrictions and speed up vaccination in a bid to limit an expected surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said on Monday.

Presenting its fourth round of measures in two weeks, the government announced a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, a closing of gyms and swimming pools to most users and stricter rules in schools, among other things.

"There is no doubt - the new variant changes the rules. That's why we need to act fast and we need to act again," Stoere told a news conference. "For many this will feel like a lockdown, if not of society then of their lives and of their livelihoods."

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Britain on Monday recorded the first publicly confirmed death globally from the swiftly spreading strain. read more

Norway's new restrictions could cast doubt on the central bank's plan to raise interest rates later this week, DNB Markets said. The crown currency weakened by 0.9% during the day as news of the new measures emerged. read more

To speed up vaccination with booster doses, the government said the armed forces, as well as pharmacies, would assist in the inoculation campaign.

At the same time, quarantines would apply more widely, the government added.

Norway is setting record highs both in terms of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, partly due to the spread of Omicron, which is expected to become the dominant variant in the coming days.

"A lack of action now could lead to large negative consequences for society, not just for health services and municipalities," the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said.

Unless effective measures were established, the nation of 5.4 million people risks having between 90,000 and 300,000 new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis from early January, the FHI added.

Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche and Ed Osmond

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.