Norway has introduced some of its toughest measures in the Covid-19 pandemic as it has responded to multiple deaths in a city near Oslo due to the most contagious variant first discovered in the Kingdom -United.
The center-right government on Saturday ordered all stores except food stores, pharmacies and gas stations have closed in the capital and in several neighboring municipalities, and have moved all schools and kindergartens in the same area to the so-called red level , which means that local authorities can shut them down.
Authorities reacted quickly after it emerged on Friday that two deaths at a care home 20 km south of Oslo earlier in January involved the most contagious variant of the coronavirus.
Norway has been one of the least affected countries in Europe by Covid-19 with low rates of infection and death. Health authorities and the government have been recognized for taking quick decisions both to close and reopen the company.
But the latest restrictions come just five days after Norway became one of the first European countries to ease restrictions in the first wave. Sports and leisure activities for children, which were able to restart on Thursday, were again interrupted on Saturday in Oslo and in nine neighboring municipalities.
“This is a very serious situation and we must do all we can to stop the epidemic,” Norwegian Health Minister Bent Hoie said, speaking from his winter hut.
He said the measures were the toughest since Norway initially locked down on March 12 last year and that in some areas “we’re going even further.”
He added: “We are doing what we can now to stop this epidemic with powerful measures, so that we can quickly regain control and ease the most intrusive restrictions. Together we have successfully defeated the virus on several occasions and together we can handle it again.
Norway, with a population of 5.3 million, has the lowest per capita death rate of any European country with 544 deaths from Covid during the pandemic. This compares to 11,055 in neighboring Sweden, which doubled the population and avoided a formal lockdown.
The current restrictions will initially last until the end of January, as authorities assess how far the variant has spread.
Some local politicians in and around Oslo criticized health authorities for the time it took to test samples for the new variant. The samples that led to the lockdown were taken on January 3.
There is no curfew or ban on movement in Oslo, although the Norwegian government recently requested the legal power to introduce one if necessary.