Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2021. 11:17 am CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: On Saturday, September 25, Norway lifted all local COVID-19 related restrictions, reopening the country after 561 days of restrictions and returning the country to near pre-pandemic freedoms.
Norway joins Denmark which lifted its restrictions on Thursday, September 9, Britain and a few other countries that are moving to reopen their country after having imposed restrictions that remained in place for over a year and a half.
A Nordic country with a population of just around 5.4 million, Norway has managed to fully vaccinate 67% of its population and given one dose of the vaccine to another 9%.
With effect from Saturday, September 25, social distancing rules and capacity limits on restaurants, bars, nightclubs, sporting arenas and others are lifted. Venues where sporting and cultural events are being held can now utilize their full capacities rather than just a portion of their seats. In addition, areas for hanging out such as sport bars and nightclubs can reopen and patrons can fill up these venues to their capacities.
According to Reuters, Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference that after 561 days, “now the time has come to return to a normal daily life” and that the restrictions will end at 1600 local time (1400 GMT) on Saturday.
Like Denmark, Norway implemented a phased return to normalcy. In Norway’s case this included a four (4) step plan. Three (3) of the four (4) steps had already been implemented but the final step was postponed several times due to concerns over infection rates. However, in the last month, new cases dropped by more than 50% providing the comfort for the country to implement the final step, fully lifting all the remaining restrictions. According to Worldometer on September 25, only 519 new cases were detected compared to the end of August when the 7-day average hovered around 1,400 cases.
“Even though everyday life is now back to normal for most people, the pandemic is not over. People will still get sick and therefore it is important that everyone gets vaccinated,” Soldberg told the press (source: Reuters). And Prime Minister Soldberg warned that those who do contract COVID-19 must still go into isolation to avoid spreading the virus.
Travel restrictions will also be relaxed, and by the end of September, the country will lift its advisory against non essential travel abroad. Some restrictions, however, will still apply to those arriving from countries that have high rate of infections.
Of significance is that as of September 25, Norway has reported only 850 deaths from 186,554 cases, representing a very low 0.46% case fatality rate.
Meanwhile here in Belize, with a population of just over 400,000, there has been 402 COVID-19 related deaths from 19,600 cases, representing a 2.05% case fatality rate. In addition the Delta variant continues to spread at a rapid rate and between 8-14% of tests administered daily are coming back positive. Hospitalizations are also up with both the COVID-19 Unit and Intensive Care Unit at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) almost filled to capacity.
While vaccinations continue at a relatively successful pace (115,175 persons or just under 30% of Belize have been fully vaccinated and another 73,868 or around 18% have received one dose of the vaccine), daily infections and deaths have risen sharply since early September. This has led the Briceno administration to impose new restrictions, closing casinos, restricting restaurants to take out only and imposing two ‘no movement’ Sundays to restrict travel and social gatherings.
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