Due to uncertainty concerning the Delta variant and the increased infection rates both in Norway and internationally, the Norwegian government has decided not to implement Step 4 of the reopening plan at this time. A new assessment will be made about whether Norway can move to Step 4 in the middle of August.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) have recommended that the Norwegian government consider delaying Step 4 by two weeks.
“The pandemic is not over. The Delta variant is causing concern in several European countries, including countries with better vaccination coverage than Norway, such as the UK and the Netherlands. There is some uncertainty as to how the Delta variant will impact Norway in terms of infection rate and disease.
“The Norwegian government has therefore decided to follow the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s advice not to implement the reopening plan’s Step 4 at this time,” Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie said on Wednesday.
Over the course of the summer, the Delta variant has become the dominant variant in Norway, and the share of persons infected with this variant is on the rise. In the new assessment requested by the authorities, the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health identify developments in Norway and internationally these last few days as important reasons for putting off the reopening.
Normality at school
Throughout the pandemic, the Norwegian government has prioritized children and adolescents. At this point, it is important to take steps to facilitate the opening of schools at the “green” level after summer, the government stated. This will require that the infection situation is under control.
“We must do everything in our power so that children and young people can start the school year normally. Opening up further at this point would enhance the risk of schools having to open at the ‘yellow’ or ‘red’ level, adversely affecting the lives of children and young people,” Høie said.
Nevertheless, kindergartens, schools, and after-school programs (SFOs) in areas with high rates of infection should plan for “yellow” level measures. This applies to kindergartens and SFOs especially, as they open before the schools in August.
Under-18s no longer subject to duty to complete transmission quarantine
The TISK strategy (testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine) has been among the most important instruments for checking the pandemic in Norway. However, these measures have a broad impact, including on individuals, the municipalities, schools, kindergartens, and working life, and it is therefore important to adjust the measures so that they are proportionate to the infection situation.
Under the existing rules, unprotected close contacts are obligated to complete ten days of transmission quarantine after exposure. After seven days, the quarantine period can be shortened upon presentation of a negative PCR test.
As of August 16, children and young people under 18 will be exempt from the duty to complete transmission quarantine. This exemption does not apply if they are a member of the household of an infected person or have similar close contact, for instance, if the infected person is a romantic partner. The exemption only applies if the person is tested in accordance with municipal guidelines.
National guidance will be prepared for the municipalities’ test regime. If the person in question does not comply with the test regime, they are subject to the duty to complete quarantine.
“When the schools reopen at the ‘green’ level, we have to avoid a scenario where many children and young people must complete quarantine. Since students are not divided into cohorts at the ‘green’ level, under-18s will have to be exempt from the duty to quarantine so each case of infection does not lead to widespread absence and schools having to operate at reduced levels,” Høie added.
For people over 18, the existing duty to complete transmission quarantine is continued, but the municipalities will be allowed to apply exemptions and replace quarantine with testing. In particular, the municipalities should consider whether upper secondary students over 18 who are not protected may be exempt from the duty to complete transmission quarantine.
Minor adjustments to step 3
Minor adjustments to Step 3 will be implemented. These changes will enter into force from Monday, August 2:
- Children and young people can currently take part in interregional cultural and sports events such as matches and competitions. The same will now be allowed for adults.
- Businesses and organizations that wish to organize social events for their staff, such as kick-off events, currently need to follow the rules for private events, making them subject to stricter limitations on the number of attendees than the ones that apply to professional gatherings. Such events will now be defined as public events. This only applies if the event is organized by an external party.
- There will be exemptions from travel restrictions for minors traveling to Norway together with their parents in cases where the parents are exempt from travel restrictions on grounds other than the COVID-19 certificate. Children traveling with parents who are exempt from travel restrictions because they have a COVID-19 certificate have already been granted such an exemption and may enter Norway.
- Passenger ferries that sail from a “green” country to a country that triggers a duty to complete quarantine but do not take on board any new passengers shall not be defined as public transport under the COVID-19 regulations’ rules on exemption from travel quarantine for travelers that have a short stay in areas that trigger a duty to complete quarantine.
Adjustments to step 4 – not to be implemented at this point in time
Even though the Norwegian government will not implement step 4 at this point, some minor adjustments to step 4 have been decided in addition to earlier changes. Even though these adjustments are not being introduced at the moment, information concerning the planned adjustments is provided to ensure greater predictability for those affected.
These are the adjustments to step 4 of the Norwegian government’s plan for gradual reopening:
- Attendance numbers for private events will be capped at 500 attendees.
- For events held with a COVID-19 certificate, the requirement for cohorts up to 500 people will be continued.
- In step 4, the cap on the number of attendees at activity camps and other leisure events that gather many people and last for multiple days will be raised from 300 to 500 people. The recommended group size will be raised from 40 to 50 people.
- Universities, university colleges, and technical colleges may conduct face-to-face teaching with an exemption from the requirement to maintain a distance during teaching activities.
For events, the following changes have been decided for step 4:
- Ending the ban on admission after midnight for events that have a license to serve alcohol.
- Ending the requirement to only serve alcohol at tables at events. Instead, at events that have a license to serve alcohol, seating for all guests will be required if alcohol is served. This will not apply to events that are being held with a COVID-19 certificate.
- Ending the distance requirement at events with a COVID-19 certificate.
- Ending the requirement for a distance of 1 meter between non-professional performers at cultural events.
- Adopting regulations that establish that protected persons in the same party may sit more closely together after they have arrived at events where fixed seats are used.
- Ending the ban against using more than half of the permanently installed fixed seats at events where a 1-meter distance cannot be maintained in all directions.
- The organizer’s obligation to implement measures to satisfy the distance requirements among participants shall also extend to public events without designated seating.
Source: Ministry of Health and Care Services / #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews
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