Norway relaxes COVID restrictions as infections plummet

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the cityscape with the new Munch Museum, also called Lambda, to the left, in the Bjorvika neighbourhood in Oslo, Norway November 17, 2020. NTB SCANPIX/Cornelius Poppe via REUTERS /File Photo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will begin on Sunday the third major phase of its plan to reopen society from the pandemic as COVID-19 infections continue to decline, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday.

From June 20, Norwegians will be allowed to receive up to 20 guests in their homes, double the current level, while bars and restaurants will no longer have to close at midnight, she said.

"Norway is on track and we're ready for step three," Solberg told a news conference.

More spectators will be allowed in sports arenas from Sunday, Solberg said. The government will also allow more overseas visitors into the country, but testing and quarantine requirements remain for many who arrive.

"The infection situation is still unpredictable in many parts of the world, and there is uncertainty linked to mutations," Solberg said.

The latest set of relaxations is part of the government's four-stage plan, introduced in April, to gradually unwind the national lockdown.

Norway recorded about 1,200 new infections in the week to June 13, the lowest in eight months and down from a weekly peak of almost 6,600 in mid-March this year, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said.

(Graphic: Norway weekly COVID-19 infections -

The nation of 5.4 million people has registered close to 130,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic early last year, and 790 people have died, making it one of the least affected nations in Europe.

Some 33% of Norway's adult population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. A further 16% has received the first of two doses and is thus partially vaccinated, FHI data shows.

Norway aims to reach the fourth and final stage of the reopening plan next month, though this could still leave some local restrictions in place, depending primarily on infection rates and vaccinations, the government said.

(Editing by Terje Solsvik and Gareth Jones)

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