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Norway bans alcohol as threat of omicron ‘contagion bomb’ looms

The Independent logo The Independent 14/12/2021 Helen Coffey
Oslo, Norway - Getty Images/iStockphoto © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Oslo, Norway

- Getty Images/iStockphoto

Norway has banned the sale of alcohol in all hospitality venues in response to the threat of a potential “contagion bomb” caused by the omicron coronavirus variant, health chiefs have said.

From midnight on 14 December, bars and restaurants will be prohibited from selling booze for at least four weeks, alongside other restrictions, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store confirmed.

“For many this will feel like a lockdown,” Mr Store said of the measures, which include an advisory for people to work from home where possible, an extension of mask mandates and the restriction of access to gyms and swimming pools.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has warned that, if no measures are taken, there could be between 90,000 and 300,000 new Covid infections per day, plus up to 200 hospitalisations, which would overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system.

“The omicron variant will already in December cause a wave with many sick, many hospitalisations, [putting a] significant burden on the health care system and society through, among other things, widespread sickness absence,” the FHI said in a statement.

“The situation concerns us more than it did previously,” Line Vold, the FHI's head of infection control and emergency preparedness, told public broadcaster NRK.

“We think omicron will be the dominant variant in the coming days... We need to quickly introduce further restrictions.”

Norway's prime minister is expected to hold a press conference at 8pm tonight to outline the new restrictions.

Some 358 people were hospitalised with Covid in Norway on 13 December, the most since the start of the pandemic, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

It comes as countries across Europe are ramping up restrictions and booster vaccine rollouts to curb the spread of the omicron variant.

On Sunday, the UK prime minister announced that efforts would be made to make a third shot of the vaccine available to everyone aged 18 and over by the end of the year.

“We are a great country. We have the vaccines to protect our people,” said Boris Johnson.

“So let’s do it. Let’s Get Boosted Now. Get Boosted Now for yourself, for your friends and your family.

“Get Boosted Now to protect our NHS, our freedoms and our way of life.”

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