Norway imposes new restrictions to limit virus spread

By Victoria Klesty

OSLO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Norwegians to avoid travelling domestically and instead stay at home as much as possible, as part of a new round of recommendations and restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of cases has risen in many parts of Norway, hitting a record last week in a country which long had one of Europe's lowest rate of infections.

"The situation is very serious, and ... we don't have time to wait and see if the measures we introduced last week are enough," Solberg said on Thursday.

Last week, Norway tightened restrictions on gatherings and foreign workers entering the country.

Now, Norwegians are urged to limit their movements and social interactions. All bars have to close at midnight.

Foreigners without residence in Norway will have to have written proof that they had a negative COVID-19 test prior to travel, and could be placed in a quarantine hotel unless they have their own home.

"The change in rules means that a grandmother, or another relative, can visit (from abroad) but in the first period in the country, she must be in a hotel," said the government.

Norway recorded 3,118 new COVID-19 cases last week, up from 1,718 the week before -- both higher than the previous peak of 1,733 cases posted in the week March 16-22, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The government is now preparing for further restrictions for implementation if they're needed to avoid a collapse in health services, Solberg said.

Norway's 14-day cumulative number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was 88.8 as of Wednesday, third-lowest in Europe behind Finland and Estonia, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

(Editing by Gwladys Fouche, Angus MacSwan, Larry King)

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