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Norway's Post-COVID-19 Re-Opening Turns 'Life-Threatening' Amid Drunken Street Fights

© Sputnik / Alexey Kudenko / Go to the photo bankAlcohol drink
Alcohol drink - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.09.2021
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Plans to re-open Norway came abruptly, with only a single day's notice. While critics said that this hastiness and a failure to prepare the public contributed to the ensuing chaos, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that the decision had been greenlit by the country's infection control authority and ventured that it would have been “foolish to wait”.
As Norway eased most of the COVID-19 restrictions which had been in place for months, the country's streets filled with celebrating citizens. However, the celebration was marred with drunken fights and riots; Norwegian police described it as a messy night.
While Culture Minister Abid Raja ventured that all Norway has been longing for a re-opening for 18 months and encouraged his compatriots to “take back the culture and everyday life”, leading by example and going to a dance party, the process had a flip side, as disturbances were recorded throughout the country.

Amid long queues at Oslo's nightclubs and pubs, the police registered at least 50 fights and disruptions over the course of several hours alone. One man was hospitalised with serious head injuries after an assault. Furthermore, police handled a stabbing and an alarm about a man with a machete on a bus.

“There was a significantly greater workload than before, during the summer. There were a lot of people out already in the afternoon and it continued during the night,” Rune Hekkelstrand of the Oslo Police told national broadcaster NRK.
However, the disturbances were by no means limited to Oslo. In Tønsberg, Skien and Bergen, police had to intervene to break up several major riots and mass fights; 12 people were arrested in the city of Agder, NRK reported.
The city of Trondheim reported that people fainted in pub queues from congestion. A police spokesman told that the queues outside nightclubs were so long and dense and that people pressed so hard that some lost their breath.
The police in Stavanger described a “busy night with many assignments related to parties and celebrations, including disturbances, expulsions and violations of night peace”.
A general view of the Norwegian central bank, where Norway's sovereign wealth fund is situated, in Oslo, Norway, March 6, 2018 - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.09.2021
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The news of the upcoming re-opening came abruptly, with only a single day's notice. Critics say that this hastiness and failure to correctly prepare the public has contributed to the ensuing chaos.
“It turned out exactly as I said beforehand. It was life threatening out there because they didn't give us a few days notice. It is even life-threatening, what [Prime Minister Erna] Solberg has done”, Oslo nightclub manager Johan Høeg Haanes told the newspaper Verdens Gang.
However, the prime minister stuck to her guns and defended the decision. She argued it would have been foolish to wait, as the opening has been advocated by the country's infection control authority.
“We should no longer have strict measures if they can not be motivated professionally. We have also been in contact with the municipalities, and an overwhelming majority wanted to see an opening”, Solgberg told Verdens Gang.
Since the start of the pandemic, Norway, a nation of 5.3 million, has seen 187,000 cases with 850 deaths. As of now, over 67 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.
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