Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Tromsø and northern municipalities impose quarantine restrictions on travelers from southern Norway

Efforts to slow down the spread of coronavirus escalate with drastic measures across Norway. All people from southern Norway arriving in Lofoten, Vesterålen, Kirkenes, and Tromsø must go directly into a 2-weeks quarantine.
March 15, 2020

10 people in Tromsø have tested positive for coronavirus by Saturday, but northern Norway has fewer cases than most other regions of the country. 1077 people had by March 15th tested positive, making Norway one of the top ten most affected countries.

Norway was the fifth country after China, Italy, Denmark, and Ireland to announce a nation-wide lock-down to slow the coronavirus. By Sunday morning, three people, all in Oslo, have died of the virus.

The measures taken by the government on Thursday was by prime minister Erna Solberg said to be “the most far-reaching measures Norway’s population has ever experienced in peacetime.”

Additional to closing down kindergartens, schools, universities and asking all who have the possibility to work from home to do so, the borders are also closed for travelers from outside Finland and Sweden.  

Tromsø airport closes for incoming foreigners. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

From 8 am Monday morning, all Norwegian airports and harbors will close for incoming passengers from countries outside Finland and Sweden, except Norwegian residents returning home. The military home guard and the civil defense will help to enforce border control. Similarly, the government advises Norwegians against all international travel that is not strictly necessary.

In the north, local authorities are even taking measures to quarantine people traveling domestic, from the south to the north.

Tromsø, the largest city in northern Norway, late Saturday announced with immediate effect that all incoming travelers from the eight southernmost counties have to go to quarantine.

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Local medical officer, Kathrine Kristoffersen, says Tromsø has a special responsibility to reduce the risk of infection of the coronavirus in northern Norway.

She argues that travelers from the south are coming from areas with most infections. “Therefore, it’s necessary to impose quarantine for visitors from those areas.”

Similar measures are taken by local health authorities in Lofoten, Vesterålen, and Kirkenes also those regions inside the Arctic Circle.

On Svalbard, the Governor has decided that every person arriving Norway from places other than Sweden and Finland shall be quarantined on the mainland for a period of two weeks before flying to Longyearbyen.

People in isolation at home are told not to take public transport and avoid places where contact with others can be made.

On Saturday, Russia closed the border to Norway and Norwegians who are on the east side of the border are asked to contact the Consulate General in Murmansk to get assistance on how to return home.

Many flights direct flights from outside the Nordic countries to Tromsø are canceled.

Hurtigruten at the port in Kirkenes. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Hurtigruten, the coastal cruise vessel sailing between Bergen and Kirkenes faces restrictions onshore excursions and dismemberment at many ports in the north. In Vardø, passengers were not allowed onshore and at the end destination Kirkenes, passengers are only permitted to leave directly for the airport.

On Sunday morning Hurtigruten’s ship ”Nordkapp” keeps all 250 passengers on board, waiting to arrange a charter plane to arrive in Kirkenes.

For winter-tourism, one of the fastest-growing businesses in northern Norway, the measures taken to slow the coronavirus outbreak could mean a total economic meltdown. Many operators have already announced layoffs, others are closing activities entirely for the rest of the season.

Hotels, airlines, bus companies, restaurants, and others are preparing for a wave of coronavirus-related layoffs.

SAS said on Sunday it temporarily lays off 90% of the workforce, affecting 10,000 employees.

 

Read more: Barents Observer’s media partner, Eye on the Arctic, has compiled a brief resume of responses to this pandemic around the Arctic Circle to see how various national and sub-national governments are dealing with the outbreak. See here for updates.

 


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