Norway Scraps COVID-19 Restrictions, Plans to ‘Live With’ Virus

No more masks, isolation, or social distancing

Norway Scraps COVID-19 Restrictions, Plans to ‘Live With’ Virus
People out on the streets to celebrate the end of the COVID-19 restrictions, in Oslo, on Sept. 25, 2021. (Naina Helen Jama/NTB via AP)
Naveen Athrappully

Norway has become the latest Nordic nation to remove almost all of its COVID-19 restrictions despite the Omicron variant spreading throughout the country, putting the country on a course toward reverting back to pre-pandemic normalcy.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a great threat to the health of most of us. The Omicron variant leads to far less severe illness, and the vaccines are protecting us well. We are therefore removing most of the infection control measures, such as the 1-meter distance, the requirement to wear a face covering, and isolation. We can return to normal everyday life,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a Feb. 12 statement.

The Norwegian government will only insist on testing adults who show symptoms of the virus. In cases of infection, individuals will no longer have to isolate. Instead, the government now recommends that infected adults remain at home for four days.

Kindergarten and school students can attend educational institutions as long as they haven't shown signs of a fever within the past 24 hours. Children will also no longer be required to get tested, even if they display symptoms of the virus. Visitors from other nations are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result before entering the country.

Some rules will continue to be implemented in the archipelago of Svalbard.

“A primary objective of the 'live with' strategy is for us to be able to live with COVID-19 in a way that minimizes the burden on the individual and on society,” Store said.

The new policy, which came into effect on Feb. 12, was implemented based on professional recommendations from the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norweigian Institute of Public Health (FHI). Both institutions stated that COVID-19 restrictions could be relaxed.

The government said that lifting the regulation would result in an increase in infections. Sickness absences might become higher, and the number of hospital admissions may also increase. But patients are spending a shorter period of time at hospitals, and fewer people need intensive care.

The FHI estimates that hospital admissions won't exceed 1,000 simultaneous admissions, and the government believes this can be handled by the current health care system.

“Many will be infected in the coming weeks, and we must prepare for that. But we are able to handle the increase in infection. Even if we remove the regulatory requirements, it is still important to follow general infection control advice,” said Ingvild Kjerkol, chief of the Ministry of Health and Care Services.

More than 91 percent of Norwegian citizens have received at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The FHI believes that up to 4 million people out of the country’s 5.4 million citizens might get infected by this summer. Last week, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by 40 percent, according to FHI Director-General Camilla Stoltenberg.

Norway has seen more than 1 million COVID-19 cases and 1,513 deaths. The seven-day rolling average of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million rose from 634 on Jan. 1 to 3,716 on Feb. 13. Among Nordic nations, Sweden and Denmark have recently removed all or most of their COVID-19 regulations.