News story | Date: 13/08/2021
The Norwegian Government has decided to implement Step 4 of the reopening 3 weeks after all people over the age of 18 have been offered their first vaccine dose. At that point, all adult Norwegians will have received the opportunity to be protected by a vaccine.
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‘This week, most people over the age of 18 will have been offered a vaccine. This means that they will have good protection from serious disease and illness after 3 weeks. We want to give all people over the age of 18 this opportunity to protect themselves before we ease any more restrictions’, says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
The infection rate is expected to rise when schools and higher education start next week.
‘During the next 3 weeks, we need to continue to suppress the infection rate, so that transmission does not increase too much and the municipalities do not have difficulty performing contact tracing. Even though we have been vaccinated, we need to continue to keep a distance from each other in public spaces, stay home when we are ill, take a test if we display any symptoms, and keep our hands clean’, explains Mr Høie.
‘Everyone should download the Smittestopp app to help their municipality with contact tracing and to stop outbreaks in the near future’, encourages Mr Høie.
Vaccination of 16 and 17-year-olds
The pace of vaccination will accelerate during the next few weeks due to the 1 million extra vaccine doses that Norway will be buying from Poland. This means that the adult population will be fully vaccinated 2–3 weeks sooner than previously projected.
‘This will be a great help in the face of rising infection rates in the autumn. We will also expedite making the final decision about whether to vaccinate 16 and 17-year-olds’, states Mr Høie.
The Norwegian Government will make this decision in August, not in September, as originally planned. The municipalities have been asked to plan for this group to be vaccinated next.
‘We will make the decision based on the latest and most up-to-date knowledge on vaccination of this age group. If we decide to offer them a vaccine, the extra doses we buy from Poland will make it possible for the municipalities that have made most progress in vaccination to start vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds in a matter of weeks’, stresses Mr Høie.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is also considering whether to offer vaccines to children as young as 12 years old.
‘Vaccination is now proceeding at a good pace, and we can afford to thoroughly assess this matter, based on the most recent knowledge available. If we recommend offering a vaccine to this group as well, it will be important that the decision is made in such a way that inspires trust and confidence among the young people and their parents’, says Mr Høie.
Students are exempt from keeping a distance during teaching
During the summer, the Norwegian Government eased restrictions in several areas that were originally part of Step 4 of the reopening plan.
Another adjustment is being made now:
Students are exempt from keeping a distance during teaching. This was intended to be part of Step 4, but the exemption is being implemented now following the advice of the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
‘This means that students will finally be able to meet each other face to face in classrooms and sit shoulder to shoulder in auditoriums after 18 months of keeping a distance. We have given the freshers weeks NOK 40 million in sponsorship, and we are carrying the cost of rapid testing.
I am sure that this will give students a far more fun and safer start to their studies than last year’, says Minister of Research and Higher Education Henrik Asheim.
Most of the adult population will have been offered their second vaccine dose within the next 4 weeks.
‘The vaccines will help us keep the pandemic under control, but we need to continue to live with the virus, just as we live with other infectious diseases. It is impossible to fully eradicate the risk. This means that some people will become seriously ill and some will die from COVID-19 after we have finished vaccinating people and society has reopened’, states Mr Høie.
The Norwegian Government will not uphold domestic restrictions in order to eliminate the risk completely, but will consider taking action if necessary. Virus mutations may arise that result in more serious illness or mutations against which vaccines are ineffective. As long as the numbers of people becoming seriously ill and being admitted to hospital remains low, the infection rate is of limited significance.
‘This is why the phase after Step 4 will entail a normal everyday life but increased preparedness. We will monitor the situation nationally – and internationally. The central authorities, the hospitals, and the municipalities must maintain preparedness in order to be able to act swiftly if necessary’, says Mr Høie.
The Norwegian Government has entered into vaccine delivery agreements for the coming years which include requirements for adjustment of the vaccines to new virus variants. This, combined with Norway’s contribution to international vaccination work, is an important part of the preparedness.
Changes to entry restrictions
People who have been admitted to a PhD programme at a Norwegian educational institution will be able to enter the country again from Sunday 15 August at 12 am. They must comply with the same test and quarantine requirements as other people who arrive from a third country.
The Norwegian Government has also made an adjustment to Step 4 of the reopening plan. In Step 4, entry will be allowed for grandparents, romantic partners, and other similar close relations from third countries.
‘They will continue to be subject to strict test and quarantine requirements when they arrive in the country, but they will finally be allowed to meet their loved ones in Norway. I know that many people have longed for this’, says Mr Høie.