Police in Norway reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes including mass brawls after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.
The Norwegian government announced on Friday that most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped from Saturday and that life would return to normal.
The move included the lifting of social distancing rules and capacity limits on businesses, as well as the reopening of nightclubs.
The unexpected announcement by prime minister Erna Solberg late on Friday afternoon took many Norwegians by surprise and led to chaotic scenes in the capital Oslo and elsewhere in the country on Saturday.
Rowdy celebrations across Norway by hundreds of citizens started on Saturday afternoon and lasted until the early hours of Sunday.
Police said unrest was reported in several places, including in the southern city of Bergen and the central city of Trondheim, while the situation was worst in Oslo. Police in Norway registered at least 50 fights and disturbances during the course of the night.
Long queues were seen outside Oslo’s nightclubs, bars and restaurants late on Saturday. Neither vaccination status certificates nor negative test results for Covid-19 were required to enter such venues in Norway.
“That’s exactly what I predicted would happen,” angry Oslo nightclub manager Johan Hoeeg Haanes told Norwegian newspaper VG. “It was a life-threatening situation in the city because they [the government] didn’t give us at least a few days’ advance notice. This was a dangerous situation as police said all places were packed.”
Among other incidents, Norwegian media reported that police received an alert about a man carrying a machete on a bus in Oslo and people fainted while waiting to get into pubs in Trondheim.
“There was a significantly greater workload [on Saturday] than during the summer. There were a lot of people out already in the afternoon and it continued during the night,” Oslo police spokesman Rune Hekkelstrand told the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.
Ms Solberg responded to criticism of the sudden move to reopen society by saying that Norwegian health experts had supported the measure.
“We shall not have strict [coronavirus] measures unless they are professionally justified. People must be allowed to live as they wish,” Ms Solberg said late on Saturday in a comment to VG.
Norway is the second country in the Nordic region to make a move to lift remaining Covid-19 restrictions after Denmark did so on September 10th.
More than 76 per cent of Norway’s population of 5.3 million have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, and nearly 70 per cent have had both doses, according to official figures. – AP/Reuters