CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR THURSDAY: Radisson closing this weekend, free psychosocial counselling offered, machinery to block trails to Svea and more


This list will be updated throughout the day.

More local businesses are temporarily closing or reducing hours as the mass layoffs and near total halt of tour activity due to the coronavirus pandemic is taking full effect. Many local companies and individuals are also offering free, reduced price or new types of tours/services/diversions both and help provide work for those in need.

• Svalbard remains free of known cases as of Thursday morning. Local political leaders have submitted a request to Parliament for funding to assist the large number of locals not covered by Norway’s unemployment and insurance benefits, and compensate for any reduction/elimination of municipal fees, and are with business leaders evaluating further crisis measures.

• A modification to the quarantine means foreign nationals residing permanently in Svalbard can now pass through the Norwegian mainland when traveling abroad to Svalbard – meaning those with local residency but not a national residency permit can avoid the problems encountered so far, according to The Governor of Svalbard. The mandatory 14-day quarantine on the mainland still applies.

• Numerous individuals and organizations are collaborating with the city to offer psychosocial counselling. The primary contact number is 7902 2304.

• The Governor of Svalbard, after observations of snowmobile tracks high-tracking on hills, is reminding everyone to avoid excursions that risk rescues or other sparse emergency services that are needed for coronavirus-related purposes.

• The Radisson Polar Blu Polar Hotel will close this weekend due to mass layoffs and lack of guests, Svalbardposten reported. “We still have some guests with local affiliation. When they check out we will close the hotel,” Hurtigruten Svalbard Destination Manager Vebjørn Andresen said.

• Stationen is reducing its hours and eliminating daily midday meal specials. The new hours are 2-9:30 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, and 2-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Green Dog Svalbard is offering 10 percent discounts to locals and 50 percent discounts to youths under 13 for dogsledding tours. E-mail for bookings.

• Hæhre Arctic will be bringing heavy machine through Todalen, Gangdalen, Reindalen, Slakbreen and to Svea on Friday and Saturday. It will not be possible to pass the equipment on trails due to their size and travellers are being told to avoid the areas. People with questions can call 4807 8022. Also, Svea remains closed to visitors.

• Henning Hanssen is offering salvage/towing of stranded snowmobiles including up to two hours of driving time for 1,900 kroner. additional charge for longer distances or difficult conditions. The Governor of Svalbard is urging people to avoid excursions that require scarce pubic rescue services needing for virus-related purposes.

• Svalbard Church remains closed and is now making alternative plans for Easter if necessary.

Hurtigruten is putting cruise operations on hold, although two of its 19 ships will be used to transport supplies. The company’s first Svalbard voyage of the year on April 23 is still currently scheduled.

• The city of Longyearbyen has published its quarantine and travel restrictions in Russian at its website.

• Surplus protective gear from the now-closed coal mine at Svea and still-operating Mine 7 is being sent to the University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsø, Svalbardposten reported.