CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR SUNDAY: Government’s Svalbard aid statement in English, Russian consul general discusses Barentsburg impacts and more

virusnyålesund

This story will be updated throughout the day.

Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed cases of the coronavirus as the global pandemic crisis nears the end of its second surreally quiet weekend in the archipelago, but government agencies aren’t idle as they continue to release information for the archipelago’s foreign residents and discuss the impacts with media in other countries with residents here. Meanwhile, life for researchers in Ny-Ålesund is “almost normal” as they continue a variety of projects and a New Zealand resident in the Arctic guiding program is grappling with issues related to a return-home declaration from her homeland.

virusgang

“There has been some gang-related activity in my neighborhood lately (pictured here) and I don’t think that’s OK, especially during times when we’re supposed to be socially distant,” according to Kelsey Camacho, a Longyearbyen resident, in a post on a local Facebook page dedicated to gripes. “Have some respect.” Dan Celius, another local resident, commented he’s seen up to 70 reindeer in clusters in areas outside town like Adventdalen.

• Norway’s government has published an official English translation of its Friday statement declaring it will “provide fixed-term benefits scheme for foreign employees in Longyearbyen.”

• The Russian settlements and residents in Svalbard are experiencing many of the same hardships as their Norwegian neighbors – even though no layoffs have occurred – and as officials look to the longer-term future it’s important economic activities not be skewed only toward tourism, Consul General of the Russian Federation on Svalbard Sergey Gushchin told KXAN news.

• “Everyday life is almost normal” in Ny-Ålesund as the international research community remains engaged in a multitude of projects and activities as diverse as the residents themselves, the Norwegian Polar Institute notes in an essay/photo update (in Norwegian; link in English via Google Translate).

• Taygen Hughes, a New Zealand citizen participating in the Arctic guiding program in Longyearbyen that has gone all-digital in lieu if in-person activities, told her country’s Stuff news site there are tremendous difficulties and concerns in considering whether to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for all Kiwis aboard to return home as soon as possible. “Things escalated very fast and within a week it went from our ski trip being cancelled, to the university closing, to being told we should leave the archipelago and return to mainland Norway,” she said. But while many returned to the Norwegian mainland, Hughes felt it was safer to stay in Svalbard where there had been no reported cases of Covid-19. “If she were to try and return home, it would mean taking four separate flights, something she thought was risky,” the site reported.

• Sunniva Sorby tells her hometown newspaper in Canada what it’s like being one of two women spending nine months overwintering in a remote trapper’s cabin in Svalbard, where long-term self-isolation has already been a way of life for many months.

Norway’s central bank announced it is cutting the policy rate by 0.75 percentage points to 0.25 percent, one notch before the previous historic low of 0.5 percent and the lowest in 200 years. The kroner has dropped more than 20 percent against the dollar since the crisis began.