Rowdy celebrations and brawls erupt in Norway as COVID restrictions end

HELSINKI – Norwegian police on Sunday reported dozens of unrest and violent clashes, including mass brawls in major cities across the Nordic country after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions that have lasted for over a year.

The Norwegian government abruptly announced on Friday that most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions would be removed from Saturday and life in the nation of 5.3 million people would return to normal.

The unexpected announcement by outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg to drop coronavirus restrictions the next day took many Norwegians by surprise and led to chaotic scenes in the capital, Oslo, and elsewhere in the country.

“It has been 561 days since we introduced the toughest measures in Norway in peacetime,” Solberg said at a press conference on Friday. “Now the time has come to get back to normal everyday life. “

Loud celebrations by hundreds of citizens across Norway began on Saturday afternoon and lasted until the early hours of Sunday. Police said unrest had been reported in several places, including the southern city of Bergen and the central city of Trondheim, but the situation was worst in Oslo.

Long lines were seen outside Oslo’s nightclubs, bars and restaurants on Saturday night and police recorded at least 50 brawls and unrest overnight. Neither vaccination status certificates nor negative test results are required to enter such sites in Norway.

“This is exactly what I predicted,” club manager Johan Hoeeg Haanes in Oslo told Norwegian newspaper VG. “It was a potentially life-threatening situation in the city because they (the government) didn’t give us at least a few days’ notice. It was a dangerous situation, as police said all places were crowded. “

Among other incidents, Norwegian media reported that police received an alert about a man carrying a machete on a bus in Oslo and people passed out while waiting to enter pubs in Trondheim.

“There was a significantly heavier workload (Saturday) than during the summer. It was already very crowded in the afternoon and it continued into the night, ”Oslo police spokesman Rune Hekkelstrand told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

Solberg responded to criticism of the sudden decision to reopen the company, saying Norwegian health experts backed the measure.

“We will not have strict measures (coronavirus) unless they are professionally justified. People should be allowed to live as they wish, ”Solberg told VG on Saturday evening.

Norway is the second country in the Nordic region to lift COVID-19 restrictions after Denmark on September 10.

More than 76% of the Norwegian population has received a dose of the vaccine, and nearly 70% have received both injections, according to official figures.

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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement