Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg awaits Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Vilnius, Lithuania, September 8, 2020. REUTERS / Ints Kalnins

Norway will allow larger groups of people to meet from next week and will let most bars and restaurants serve alcohol until midnight as it takes its next major step in the curb unrolling COVID-19, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday.

The capital Oslo and its surrounding region will also ease some of its tighter localized restrictions, allowing gymnasiums, cinemas, theaters and restaurants to reopen and children to resume indoor sports, authorities added.

“We are ending the social lockdown in Oslo which has been going on since the beginning of November,” city council chief Raymond Johansen said at a press conference.

“This will allow a lot of people to return to work,” he said.

Norway has recorded some of the lowest infection and death rates in Europe since the start of the pandemic. But he has tightened measures after a rapid increase in hospitalizations in March triggered by more contagious variants of the coronavirus.

Since then, rates of new infections have declined steadily, giving hope that a third wave of infections has been brought under control.

The eases are the second phase of a four-step plan to unravel the national lockdown. Read more

From May 27, across most of Norway, up to 200 people will be allowed to attend indoor events with fixed seats, up from 100 currently, the government said.

Many restrictions on participation in recreational sports will also be lifted.

“This means we can take Norway’s reclamation work forward,” Solberg said at a press conference.

Stricter localized restrictions covering Oslo and its region will be relaxed a day earlier from May 26.

There, bars and restaurants will now be allowed to serve alcohol until 10 p.m., and up to 20 people to gather for events inside, ending the ban on such gatherings.

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 European Single Market and the Schengen Travel Zone.

About one in three adults has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and about 15% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

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