Norway to ease curbs 'little by little' after coronavirus lockdown: PM

By Gwladys Fouche and Victoria Klesty
FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Merkel meets Norway's PM Solberg in Berlin

By Gwladys Fouche and Victoria Klesty

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway, one of the first European countries to curb activities to rein in the spread of 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 virus, therefore we can open up society little by little," Erna Solberg told a news conference.

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

Current restrictions, which are 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 reopen between April 20 and 27, schools from the first grade to the fourth grade will reopen 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 would be banned until June 15 and Norwegians living in Norway are still advised not to travel abroad unless it is absolutely necessary.

Foreigners without the right to live or work in the country - tourists, for instance - are still not allowed to enter the country. The only ones who can come are European citizens working in sectors considered crucial, such as agriculture, fisheries or the oil industry.

Some 5,863 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, up from 5,755 reported on Monday, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said. Some 69 people have died of the disease so far.

Norway's rate of unemployment rose to 15.4% on Tuesday, the Labour and Welfare Agency said, the highest level on record, up from 14.7% on March 31, as the economy ground 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 reopen day care centres and schools on April 15 as a first step to gradually relaxing its three-week lockdown.


(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche, editing by Victoria Klesty, Nick Macfie and Chris Reese)