OSLO, April 13 (Reuters) - Norway will start to unwind some
restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and allow more
people to gather from Friday, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said
However, the country's vaccine rollout risks being delayed
by up to almost three months if it does not go ahead and use
AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson's shots, the
Norwegian Institute of Public Health said.
Norway will say on Thursday whether it will resume using the
AstraZeneca vaccine, on hold since a small number of younger
inoculated people developed a combination of blood clots,
bleeding and a low platelet count, some of whom later died.
Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, said it was delaying the
roll-out of its vaccine to Europe as U.S. health agencies
recommended pausing its use after six women under 50 given the
shot developed rare blood clots.
Norway has had some of Europe's lowest rates of infections
and deaths since the start of the pandemic, but imposed stricter
measures after a rapid increase in hospitalisations in March
triggered by more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
"The infection numbers are now down. Hospitalisations are
fewer. The measures look to have had an effect," Solberg told a
As a result, Norwegians will from Friday again be allowed to
receive up to five guests in private homes, up from two
currently, and restaurants can serve alcohol under certain
A maximum of 100 people will be allowed to attend indoor
events in for example theaters and sports arenas, provided there
are fixed seating arrangements, and groups of up to 200 people
can attend outdoor events.
The easing of rules at the national level will not affect
those in areas of the Nordic country where the infection rate is
the highest, such as in the Oslo capital region, Solberg said.
Non-essential stores remain closed in the Oslo area, and
restaurants there are still only allowed to provide takeaway
service, and some schools remain shut.
Line Vold, head of infection control and emergency
preparedness at the Institute of Public Health, predicted
between eight and 12 weeks of delay in vaccinating Norwegians if
the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson shots were shunned.
"It will be mainly for the younger groups (in the
population). We will be done with vaccination of people in risk
groups," she told the same news conference.
The government has said earlier it estimates that everyone
aged 18 or older will have been offered their first vaccine shot
by the end of July.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)