Social-distancing during a press conference in the Norwegian parliament on March 31 2020 Picture: NTB SCANPIX/ FP/ NORWAY OUT/STIAN LYSBERG SOLUM
Social-distancing during a press conference in the Norwegian parliament on March 31 2020 Picture: NTB SCANPIX/ FP/ NORWAY OUT/STIAN LYSBERG SOLUM

Oslo — Norway, one of the first European countries to curb activities to rein in the coronavirus, will relax restrictions “little by little”, the prime minister said on Tuesday.

The Nordic country’s lockdown sent the economy into a tailspin and triggered hundreds of thousands of layoffs.

“Together, we have taken control of the coronavirus, therefore we can open up society little by little,” Erna Solberg told a news conference.

On Monday, her health minister said the epidemic is “under control” in Norway, pointing to the low rate of transmission.

Current restrictions, in place until April 13, include the closure of nurseries and schools, refusing entry to foreigners who do not live and work in Norway, and forbidding people to go to their mountain cabins, if they have one.

Kindergartens will re-open between April 20 and 27; schools from the first grade to the fourth grade will re-open from April 27; and Norwegians can go to their chalets from April 20.

At the same time, working from home must continue and Norwegians must get used to measures against contamination “for a long time”, Solberg said.

In addition, major sports and cultural events, such as festivals, will be banned until June 15.

Some 5,860 people have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, up from 5,755 reported on Monday, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said. Some 88 people have died of the disease so far.

Norway’s rate of unemployment rose to 15.4% on Tuesday, the Norwegian labour and welfare service (NAV) said, the highest level on record, up from 14.7% on March 31, as the economy grinds to a halt.

Norway is the latest country to ease some of its restrictions.

Fellow Nordic nation Denmark, which followed a similarly tough line to Norway, announced late on Monday it would re-open daycare centres and schools on April 15 as a first step to gradually relaxing its three-week lockdown.

Reuters