UPDATED 30 MAY: Norway now has a timetable for lifting the various coronavirus restrictions but widespread testing has been ruled out. Most travel restrictions remain in place and could last until August 20. Here's what you need to know about the outbreak, including the latest facts and figures.
Norway has taken its first tentative steps to reopening its border, which has been essentially closed to non-residents for almost three months. Since March 15, the Directorate of Immigration and the Police have had the power to expel most foreigners without a residence permit.
Those regulations have now been changed to allow EEA citizens who want to visit close family, or a leisure property that they own, into the country. Rules for business travellers from other Nordic countries have also been relaxed, while leisure travel to Denmark is permitted. However, the quarantine rules still apply to most others people. For the full details, see below.
Coronavirus updates from Norway
I know a lot of people in Norway will be concerned about the latest coronavirus news, along with people planning a trip. So, here's everything you need to know about the spread of the virus, the COVID-19 outbreak, and how Norway is reacting.
I'm getting a lot of emails from people asking questions, especially since the announcement that some measures will be lifted. I don't have the capacity—or the authority, for that matter—to answer personal questions, so I've put together this page with everything I do know.
I'll do my best to keep this page up-to-date in the days and weeks to come, but do check the various links for the very latest information. You should also check whether you should be in home quarantine, and what exactly that means.
The latest infection numbers in Norway
There are now 8,435 positive cases in Norway at the time of writing, with 236 people now confirmed dead. There are 27 people hospitalised around the country, 8 of which are in intensive care. As of 28 May, 245,352 people have been tested.
Following the improvement in numbers during late April, Norway's Minister of Health and Care announced they had the outbreak “under control.” Daily numbers have continued to fall since then.
Around Norway: All of Norway's counties have recorded at least 100 positive test results. The most are in Oslo (2,636), followed by Viken county (2,300), Vestland (883), Trøndelag (537) and Innlandet (506). So far, Nordland (121), Møre og Romsdal (137) and Troms og Finnmark (252) have recorded the fewest positive test results.
The latest situation in Norway
Norway's restrictive emergency measures are in process of being relaxed. Prime Minister Erna Solberg has announced a timetable for when most of the remaining restrictions will be lifted.
All schools were permitted to reopen from May 11, while much of everyday life will return to normal by June 15. That being said, there is an extension of the ban on major events until 1 September. Details on travel restrictions are below.
However, Solberg has warned citizens not to lower their guard. She explained that despite relaxing many measures, social distancing requirements will remain in place. This means that although you can host up to 20 people at private events at your home, you must ensure people can stay at least one metre apart from one another. Here's the full story.
“We must all still adhere to infection control rules and the recommendations given by the health authority. If we are careless, it could have serious consequences for others. In the worst case, we must tighten the measures again. We must work hard to avoid this, and we must do that together,” said Solberg.
Solberg has also encouraged all Norwegians to download the new Smittestopp smartphone app, designed to help control the spread of the virus. However, many security issues and privacy concerns have been identified.
Finally, it seems that the Norwegian postal service is currently unable to handle deliveries to certain countries, including the USA and Canada. While there is no information on incoming deliveries, I've heard reports of delayed packages.
The latest on travel and border restrictions
The dramatic measures announced by the Norwegian government mean that most foreign citizens are not allowed into the country. Justice Minister Monica Mæland told VG that the Ministry is constantly striving to find the right balance between considerations of infection protection and other important social considerations:
“That is why I am pleased to say that today we have decided that more EEA citizens who could normally enter Norway can now return here. This means that more family members of EEA citizens, and EEA citizens who are family members of Norwegian citizens, can now travel to Norway,” said the Minister. The home quarantine rules for those crossing the border still apply, although the period has been reduced from 14 to 10 days.
On May 28, the government announced a relaxation of this rule for business travellers from the other Nordic countries, including Sweden. For this group only, the home quarantine period does not apply. The following day, Norway and Denmark announced that citizens would be free to move between the two countries from June 15.
However, the border closure remains in place to everyone else. This has now been extended until 20 August, although the government is working on lifting this restriction for some countries. This is likely to happen for the other Nordic countries first.
I know this is frustrating for many people, as I keep getting emails asking when the border will be back open. Before writing, please understand that I have no more information other than what is written here.
Both SAS and Norwegian are focusing on just a few domestic routes and connections between Nordic capitals for the weeks to come. Both airlines face significant financial trouble, as does Widerøe.
Norway's government considers air travel a critical service, given the number of remote communities that rely on their small airports. So they have announced a survival package of loan guarantees worth six billion Norwegian kroner, with half earmarked for Norwegian.
Oslo Stock Exchange & Norwegian krone suffers
The oil price has plummeted to record lows, causing most Norwegian companies to start feeling the heat. The Oslo Stock Exchange has seen incredible volatility since the outbreak, with the oil price drop only adding to that. A Nordea markets analyst described the market to NRK as “complete chaos.”
The Norwegian krone weakened drastically against the US Dollar, passing 10 kroner to the Dollar for the first time. At one point it hit 12 before strengthening to around 10.2 at the time of writing. This benefits Norwegian businesses that do business in US Dollars. However, it's likely to lead to increased prices for many consumer goods in Norway.
Coronavirus in Norway: The story so far
The first coronavirus case in Norway was registered in a resident of Tromsø on 26 February. The individual had recently returned from China. They were not seriously ill and were placed under home quarantine. Many of the early cases were recorded in the Oslo region. This included six employees of the eye department at Oslo’s Ullevaal Hospital.
Read more: Healthcare in Norway
In the early days of the outbreak in Norway, the majority of people who have tested positive were either infected abroad or are close contacts of someone who was. However, that soon changed and the proportion of infections passed on in Norway or with no known source increased rapidly.
Just a couple of weeks after the first known infection in Norway, the Norwegian government took drastic steps. They introduced the strictest emergency measures ever seen outside of wartime.
Previously, Norway's Directorate of Health said there were plans in place that would cover a scenario whereby up to 25% of Norway's population became infected. In this scenario, other hospital treatment would have to be postponed to enable hundreds of thousands of additional patients to be treated.
On the afternoon of March 27, the Health Minister announced plans to delay hospital treatment for all but essential cases. In addition, he announced that Norway is the first country in the world to trial an experimental treatment on COVID-19 patients.
With the number of cases increasing rapidly, the government introduced emergency measures to try and stem the spread of the virus. All educational establishments are closed, along with many workplaces, many shops, bars, restaurants, pubs and other public services. Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open.
Read more: What's Next For Norway's Travel Industry?
Most Norwegian companies have now implemented home office arrangements where practical. However, the travel and hospitality industries, among others, are feeling the heat.
Most pubs, bars, and restaurants have been closed, forcing their owners to lay off staff. The Norwegian government has announced a series of economic measures to help laid off staff and struggling businesses.
What to do if you experience symptoms
In Norway: Do not call 113. In the first instance, you can call a health information line on 815 55 015. If you believe you are infected, call your GP. Do not visit the doctor's office in person. Only if you cannot contact your GP, call the emergency room (legevakt) at 116 117.
If you have mild symptoms that do not require medical treatment and you do not fall into one of high-risk groups as defined by FHI, you may also register your symptoms using a new online reporting tool. This is not a replacement for a doctor's consultation and is purely a data collection exercise, but it will be used to improve FHI's understanding of the disease.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises those who feel sick and who have recently returned from–or come into contact with someone who has returned from–a trip to one of the high-risk areas to avoid going to the doctor or hospital. You should instead inform the health authorities by telephone and quarantine yourself at home.
The WHO's Dr. Margaret Harris told NRK that most patients do not become seriously ill, but it's possible to pass the virus on to others who can become seriously ill:
Read more: Healthcare in Norway
“People need to stay calm. Don't let people move around. Hand hygiene is very important- It sounds so simple, but it is not so easy to make sure you wash your hands often enough. Do not scratch your eyes or nose. Cover your mouth and nose if you cough.”
Where else is impacted?
The new virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China at the end of December 2019. Since then, the virus has spread around the world. According to figures from the World Health Organization, six million cases and 368,704 deaths have been reported so far.
The UK and Italy are the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with 38,376 and 33,340 deaths respectively. The virus has also taken hold in the USA, where more than 104,000 deaths have been reported. Almost 30,000 of these deaths were in New York.
What is coronavirus?
According to the WHO, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, and there are several known types that have not yet infected humans. The current outbreak concerns COVID-19.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard precautions from the WHO include regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking all meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.