Hospitality venues in Norway have been banned from selling alcohol because of the potential spread of the omicron COVID-19 variant.
Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre announced the prohibition, which began at midnight on Dec. 14.
“It is a heavy burden that we are announcing now, for many people and many companies,” Støre said at a news conference in Oslo. “For many, this will be experienced as a lockdown — if not of society, then of their lives and livelihoods.”
“The situation is serious. The spread of infection is too high. And we have to take measures to limit that development,” added Støre in a Dec. 13 statement.
Bars and restaurants will be prohibited from selling alcohol for at least four weeks. The government also advised people to work from home if possible and extend mask mandates at indoor events. Citizens have been advised to cancel sports and leisure activities and limit social interactions to stave off any potential outbreaks.
Norwegian alcohol sales were notably high during the first quarter of 2021.
“Some 7.2 million litres of alcohol were sold in the period,” reported ESM Magazine. “Beer sales were up 17.7%, liquor sales were up 16.1%, and wine sales rose by 24.7%, it said. Total alcohol sales stood at 7.2 million litres, compared to 5.3 million litres for the corresponding period in 2020.”
Without the new measures, there could be 90,000 to 300,00 new COVID-19 infections a day, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI). The agency also predicted a possible 200 hospitalizations a day and warned the increase could overwhelm the 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 stated.
In early October, the FHI reports that the nation averaged 500 new cases a day. The rate rose to over 6,000 on Dec. 6 and then slid to 4,000 by Dec. 12. Currently, about 30 new COVID patients are admitted to the hospital each day.
The government intends to administer third-dose booster shots to all citizens over the age of 45 by mid-January.
It has also promised to “extend support mechanisms available to businesses to February and reintroduce guarantees for corporate loans,” per The National Post.