OSLO (Reuters) - Norway announced the easing of some COVID-19 restrictions on Monday but delayed the final phase of reopening the economy until the end of this month at the earliest because of concerns about the Delta coronavirus variant.
Measures that will remain include bars and restaurants being limited to table service, limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes, and restrictions on adult recreational sports.
These measures could have been lifted on Monday if the government had given the go-ahead to enter the fourth and final phase of ending a national lockdown.
"There is a risk that the Delta variant will cause a fourth wave of infection in the unvaccinated part of the population, among those who have only received one dose or are in vulnerable groups," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.
The World Health Organization has said the Delta strain is becoming the globally dominant variant of COVID-19, raising concerns about whether existing vaccines will work against it.
It could become the dominant variant in Norway this month, the health minister has said.
Almost two-thirds of adults in Norway have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 37% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The Nordic country is also considering vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds, with a final decision expected in September, the government said.
Moves to ease the lockdown include allowing more people from Thursday to attend outdoor and indoor public events, provided there is testing for the virus and attendees can produce certificates showing information on the bearer's most recent vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 infection in the past six months, and the most recent negative test result.
Outdoor events with an unseated audience such as music festivals will be allowed to house 3,000 people, an increase from 2,000.
Under a measure that had already been announced, quarantine-free travel is from Monday permitted from a number of European countries including the popular tourist destinations of France, Croatia and Italy.
(Reporting by Victoria Klesty; editing by Gwladys Fouche and Timothy Heritage)