Longyearbyen, Svalbard. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

World’s northernmost COVID-19 patient sent to hospital

First coronavirus case at Svalbard, where a Russian fisherman tested positive at the local hospital.
October 07, 2021

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With 18 months of very strict entry regulations, the Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic has until now managed to stay clear of the pandemic.

However, on Wednesday a Russian fisherman getting ill on his vessel near the Bear Island in the northern Barents Sea was brought to the hospital in Longyearbyen by a helicopter. Located at 78 degrees North, the small hospital is the world’s northernmost.

Local newspaper Svalbardposten (paywall) and NRK Troms og Finnmark were first to report about the COVID-19 patient.

The case is confirmed by the Governor of Svalbard’s office whose SAR-helicopter brought the patient from the ship to Longyearbyen. 

The man was soon sent by air ambulance from Longyearbyen to the much larger hospital in Tromsø, mainland Norway.

Doctor Knut Selmer at Longyearbyen hospital said to NRK Troms and Finnmark that all medical personnel that had been in contact with the infected man wear COVID-19 protective equipment, masks, and costume clothes.

The medical officials do not fear others in town are infected by the virus. The Russian fishing boat, however, most likely has more of the crew infected. The boat is still in the open sea. Svalbard hospital has only one bed for intensive care and one respirator. Longyearbyen was the first in Norway to fully vaccinate all inhabitants.

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