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Norwegians should wear face masks more, PM says

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Norway's incoming Prime Minister and Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere at a presentation of the incoming government's policies, in Hurdal

By Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) -Norwegians should wear face masks on crowded public transport, in shopping malls and in taxis following a record surge in coronavirus infections, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said on Tuesday.

He stopped short of issuing mask mandates, as called for by some municipalities, urging instead an accelerated drive to give booster shots to all adults.

"Vaccination is key to our COVID-19 strategy," Stoere told parliament. "We can avoid a lockdown."

Daily infections have averaged 2,642 people in the last seven days in Norway, the highest on record, up from 2,145 in the preceding seven-day period, government figures show.

Face masks were not proposed for night clubs, concert halls or other entertainment venues, as such recommendations could hurt the economy while having limited impact on the spread of the virus, Stoere later told a news conference.

But he said the discovery earlier this month of the Omicron variant had added to uncertainty.

"We will introduce stricter measures if necessary," he said.

Norway in September ended all domestic coronavirus restrictions, but opposition parties in recent days have called on the government to act to prevent the spread of the virus and thus avoid a hard lockdown of society.

The centre-left minority government on Monday said it would seek to limit any potential spread of the Omicron variant, including by imposing longer isolation https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/norway-seeks-slow-down-any-omicron-spread-government-says-2021-11-29 on those found to have been infected.

While 88% of adults in Norway have received at least two vaccine doses against COVID-19, and 71% of the overall population has been inoculated, hospitalisations and mortality are rising.

The government on Nov. 12 said it would offer booster vaccine shots https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/norway-plans-third-covid-19-vaccine-dose-all-adults-2021-11-12 to everyone aged 18 and older and give municipalities the option of using digital "corona passes", but this has not halted the rise of infection.

Norway uses vaccines made by BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna in its national rollout, which since September has included everyone aged 12 and over.

(Editing by Alex Richardson and Barbara Lewis)

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