In order to restrict the spread of the Omicron variant, Norway has banned the serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants in order to reduce social gatherings.
The government said in a statement: “Stricter rules will affect the organisation of events, cultural life. A ban is being introduced on the sale of alcohol in restaurants and cafes throughout the country.”
Prime Minister of Norway, Jonas Gahr Store, said: “The number of infections in Norway is growing rapidly; we have received new information about the Omicron strain, how quickly it can spread. The situation is very serious. There is no doubt the new variant changes the rules, that is why we need to act fast and we need to act again…
“For many, this will feel like a lockdown, if not of society then of their lives and of their livelihoods,” the PM added.
The government said that they have intensified the vaccine drive across the country. Stricter rules for schools, swimming pools and gyms have also been put in place.
Norway has suffered a surge in the number of Covid cases in recent days. 958 Omicron infections were registered in hospitals on Monday, of which 472 were registered in the capital city Oslo.
The government announced the new restrictions after the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) warned that the country’s health system will come under pressure if strict measures weren’t put in place to curb the new variant.
The NIPH said: “Already in December, the Omicron variant will cause an increase in the number of sick people, many hospital admissions, and a significant strain on the healthcare service and society, through widespread sickness absence.”
There was the last hour rush in local bars and restaurants in Oslo. Ruptly reported: “Oslo residents were seen in local bars and restaurants on Tuesday evening, the last day before a ban on the serving of alcohol was implemented nationwide.”
Gunnar, a local resident in Oslo, said: “One hour and forty minutes before they close down. We are trying to make the best of it. But the alcohol ban, I guess it needs to be done like in every other nation. So I hope the guys working here get their compensation.”
The ban will reportedly stay in place for at least four weeks, whilst workers are being encouraged to work from home where possible.
Kristy, a local resident said: “We are out because this is the last day that we can drink alcohol for a very long time. So that is why you see so many people out. Because it’s the last day we can drink. And it’s very sad that they are banning alcohol.”
According to a government official, there could be as many as 90,000 to 300,000 cases a day in Norway. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has recorded 317,870 cases of Covid-19 and 1,136 deaths.
The Irish Times quoting local doctors reported: “Omicron appears to be highly transmissible and has quickly become dominant in the country. So far, the majority of cases have been relatively mild and the percentage of severe cases needing oxygen has been low.