Norway Sets Indoor Gathering Limits, Forcing Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony to Scale Back

Following an increase in COVID-19 cases, the Norwegian government announced it would limit public and private indoor gatherings, forcing the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony to scale down.

Starting Thursday, public events without assigned seating will be limited to 50 people. Private home gatherings will be limited to 10 but with an expansion to 20 for Christmas and New Year's eves. The limits are scheduled to last four weeks.

The Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony is set to take place at Oslo City Hall on Friday. The Nobel Committee said the event will go forward as planned but with fewer attendees and mask requirements.

Due to the restrictions, a Thursday press conference with this year's winners, Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia, will take place online. Ressa and Muratov will still be attending the event in person.

In addition to the gathering limitations, the Norwegian government has also required a 1-meter distance between people in restaurants and asked that they wear masks when distancing is not possible. Norwegians are also asked to work from home if their job allows for it.

"We consider the situation as being serious," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said. "Both Delta and Omicron infections are increasing in Norway. The number of people who are admitted to hospitals and intensive care units is increasing."

Dmitry Muratov, Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov of Russia is heading to Oslo, Norway, where he will be awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize along with fellow journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines. Above, Muratov looks out the window during a stopover at Helsinki airport in Finland on December 8, 2021. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo

The measures take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday and are set to last for four weeks, the government in Oslo said.

Camilla Stoltenberg, the head of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, said during a news conference with the prime minister that among the infection trends the government monitors, "much points in the wrong direction."

"Unfortunately, the coronavirus will also cause a lot of infection and serious illness this winter, perhaps more than ever before in this pandemic in Norway," Stoltenberg said.

"We have already seen this with the Delta variant, and it will probably get worse with the Omicron variant," she said.

In neighboring Sweden, authorities recommended that employers give their workers the opportunity to work from home. Starting Wednesday, face masks were required on public transportation when crowding can't be avoided, Swedish authorities said.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren told Swedish broadcaster SVT the government was prepared to order more public health measures at short notice.

"So far, Sweden has a low spread of infection, but we do not want a more difficult situation," Hallengren said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Maria Ressa, Nobel Peace Prize
Despite a new set of COVID-19 gathering limitations in Norway, the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony will continue Friday with limited attendance. Above, Philippine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa talks to the media upon her arrival at Oslo Airport Gardermoen in Norway on December 8, 2021. Photo by Terje Bendiksby/NTB/AFP via Getty Images