Norway/Sweden, (Daily Mail), 8 May 2020 - Norway has announced plans to fully lift its coronavirus lockdown by mid-June after suffering just 209 deaths from the virus.
The country was among the first European nations to go into full lockdown on March 12 and now plans to have almost all restrictions lifted by June 15 after successfully flattening the curve of infection, with just 8,034 cases reported.
By comparison, neighbouring Sweden - which shunned a full lockdown in favour of more relaxed social distancing measures - has suffered treble that number of cases, with 24,623 people falling ill. It has also seen more than 14 times Norway’s death toll with 3,040 fatalities, forcing state officials to admit a ‘big failure’ over the ‘horrifyingly large number.Even accounting for differences in population size and density - Sweden has twice Norway’s population and a population density that is one and a half times higher - the Swedes have fared worse.
Now, as Norway plots a route to the ‘new normal’, Sweden faces having to keep its lighter restrictions in place for longer to keep infections down. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced Thursday that restrictions will start being eased from Monday next week. Private gatherings of 20 people will be allowed provided social distancing can be maintained, while public gatherings of up to 50 will be permitted. Workplaces will also reopen with strict social distancing, sports halls will be allowed to reopen, and sports involving less than 20 people can resume.
May 11 will see schools and colleges reopen across the country provided infection rates stay down, while bars and amusement parks will follow suit on June 1.
Final restrictions will then be lifted on June 15, with gatherings of up to 200 people allowed, gyms and fitness centres reopened and the football league restarted.
‘You have shown us patience, now it is our turn to give back. That is why we are presenting a plan to reopen Norway, a plan to take back everyday life,’ Solberg said.
Having kept their numbers down, Norway’s PM Solberg said today at a press conference: ‘Our goal is that by June 15 we will have reopened most of the things that were closed.’
‘But there is an important condition. We will only end confinement on these dates if we manage to keep the epidemic under control,’ she added.
The Swedish government has faced strong criticism that it was too slow to react to the virus, and did not do enough to protect the elderly in care homes.
Around 90 per cent of virus deaths in Sweden are in those aged over 70.