Norway has announced the end of its controversial ban on the serving of alcohol in bars and restaurants. Although the ban has been replaced by a nationwide 11pm alcohol sales curfew and mandatory table service, the news is sure to be greeted with cheers from the Norwegian hospitality industry.
The government had been coming under increasing pressure from city mayors and business leaders to lift the ban, one of the few such measures in place in Europe over the holiday period. Introduced in mid-December, the ban led to the temporary closure of many bars and restaurants, with subsequent employee layoffs.
Kristin Krohn Devold, director of travel industry association NHO Reiseliv, was one of those leading the calls. She said the ban was “not rational” and the time had come to “learn to live with the pandemic.”
A boost to Norway travel
The move makes travel to Norway for winter city breaks, northern lights safaris or skiing trips a more attractive proposition. While travel restrictions remain in place, fully vaccinated travelers from Europe are essentially free to visit Norway.
Fully vaccinated travelers holding a digital Covid-19 certificate that meets EU standards can enter Norway for tourism without the need to quarantine. However, travelers are required to test upon arrival at airports, or within 24 hours where test facilities are not available.
Travelers without a valid certificate can still enter Norway without quarantine as long their country of residence is rated green or yellow by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s color codes.
Latest Covid-19 situation in Norway
Although the daily number of positive test results in Norway has increased to record levels in the last week, the number of hospitalized patients has dropped steadily since its high around one month ago when the alcohol ban was introduced.
The Norwegian Directorate of Health pointed out that many people believe the national measures are not proportionate to the risk posed by the Omicron variant and high vaccination rate. “It should be communicated even more clearly that the measures are there to prevent the health care system and other important societal functions from being overloaded,” said assistant health director Espen Nakstad.
Prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced the relaxation of measures at a press conference together with finance minister Trygve Slagsvold Vedum and health minister Ingvild Kjerkol.
Earlier this week, Støre said the government would lift the alcohol ban if the advice it received from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggested it was safe to do so.
Other measures announced included a softening of restrictions at schools and an increase in the capacity at indoor public events with fixed seating to 200. In the event of positive tests, self-testing will be used to a greater extent in place of a quarantine period.
However, the recommendation to continue home office arrangements where possible remains in place, as does the requirement to use a face mask when social distancing cannot be maintained.
“We are still living in a pandemic. We therefore ask people to limit the number of close contacts. It is a personal responsibility that each individual must think through,” added Støre.