NO POSITIVE CORONAVIRUS TESTS AMONG FIRST QUARANTINED: Hospital says symptoms resembling ‘a slight cold’ prompted action, urge locals not to overwhelm staff


There are no positive tests for the coronavirus a day after the first local quarantine was announced in Svalbard, an official at Longyearbyen Hospital told Svalbardposten on Thursday morning.

Between one and five people were quarantined and the business they worked for halted commercial operations on Wednesday. The action occurred because of symptoms described as minor.

“This is talking about someone who has a slight cold and has been told to stay home,” Knut Selmer, the hospital’s infection control consultant, told the newspaper. “All responses we have received so far have been negative.”

The announcement was followed by several official announcements affecting Longyearbyen, including the cancellation of Solfestuka and much of the Norwegian Polar Institute’s activity, plus some frenzied buying of supplies by what appears to be a relatively few number of residents. Selmer said the problem for the hospital, the smallest in Norway, is it has limited staff and therefore cannot properly respond to an increasing number of inquiries that should be directed to nationwide contact numbers.

“People have to take responsibility for themselves and stay home if they feel ill,” he said. “The employer should be aware of that.”

“We do not have extra personnel who are at home and could possibly come if people get sick. It is therefore very important that we do not get any infections in the hospital.”

People are being urged to call the hospital at 7902 4200 instead of visiting in person if they suspect they have symptoms needing diagnosis. General questions, practical advice and official updates on restrictions are available through local entities including The Governor of Svalbard and the city of Longyearbyen’s website.