By Victoria Klesty and Nerijus Adomaitis
OSLO (Reuters) -Norway will take its next major step in unwinding COVID-19 restrictions on May 27, allowing larger groups of people to meet and the public serving of alcohol until midnight, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday.
“This means that we can advance the work of getting Norway back up to speed,” Solberg told a news conference.
The government last month said the second phase of a four-step plan to unwind the lockdown would likely begin in late May.
Restrictions will, however, remain tougher in some places to prevent regional flare-ups of the virus.
Alcohol can now be served only until 10 p.m. in most of the country, although Oslo and the surrounding region still ban it completely.
The Oslo city council is expected to announce its own relaxation of restrictions later on Friday.
Norway has had some of Europe’s lowest rates of infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, but it tightened measures after a rapid increase in hospitalisations in March triggered by more contagious variants of the coronavirus.
Since then, rates of new infections have declined steadily, raising hopes that a third wave of infections has been brought under control.
Norwegians will again be able to have 10 guests in their homes, double what they have been allowed since mid-April, and 200 can now attend indoor events with fixed seats, up from the current 100.
In addition, many restrictions on participation in recreational sports will be lifted.
National advice against domestic travel will be lifted immediately on Friday, the government said.
Norway is not part of the European Union but is part of the single European market and of the Schengen travel zone.
About one in three adults have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and roughly 15% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
(Editing by Terje SolsvikEditing by Robert Birsel)