Norway Locks Down Oslo Area to Fight Spread of New Covid Variant

Norway is imposing the strictest measures since March 12 in the area around the capital in an attempt to suppress infections of the more contagious coronavirus variant.

All shops, cinemas, restaurants and churches will be closed and the service of alcohol banned until Jan. 31, Health Minister Bent Hoie announced in a webcast speech on Saturday. Amateur sports and leisure activities won’t be allowed.

“This is a very serious situation, and we must do what we can to stop the outbreak,” Hoie said. “If the virus mutation spreads in Oslo, it will be very difficult to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the country.”

Having withstood the pandemic better than most in 2020, Norway managed to put a cap on higher infection rates after the Christmas holidays and has so far avoided the level of contagion seen in neighboring Sweden and Denmark. The new variant was detected on Friday in two nursing home residents in Nordre Follo bordering Oslo, with no known route of transmission.

Under the new rules to take effect from midday on Saturday, grocery stores, chemists and gas stations will be allowed to remain open and funerals will be permitted. The measures are based on the assumption that the new variant is more infectious, but not necessarily more dangerous, the health minister said.

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