WHEN ISOLATION ALLOWS EXPLORATION: With everyone but residents cut off from Svalbard, locals able to enjoy traditional Easter-season cabin trips since archipelago is one ‘district’

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There aren’t many options for Longyearbyen folks desiring a “staycation” during the Easter holiday period starting this weekend (although Barentsburg is proving a sought-after lodging option), but a nationwide ban on most cabin stays during the coronavirus restriction period doesn’t apply to Svalbard, thus making the traditional trips here possible – with some vacancies not always available this close to the holiday.

The nationwide restrictions in place until at least April 13 include “the prohibition against staying at cabins/leisure properties is maintained.” But Terje Carlsen, a spokesman for The Governor of Svalbard, explained in an e-mail interview the ban on the mainland “applies to the use of cabins outside the local community (kommune) where you live permanently.”

“Many of the regions (kommuner) on mainland Norway have thousands of cabins within their area and the number of inhabitants multiply many times when people are using their cabins as in the Easter holiday, and they do not have health services that can take care of many sick people,” he wrote. “This is first and foremost the main reason for the ban of using cabins on mainland Norway.”

“So in Svalbard things are different. The number of cabins are limited. Most of them are within Longyearbyen’s planning area and we also see Svalbard as one ‘district.’ It is also important for the well-being for the people who live permanently in Svalbard to be able to use the nature. Here the cabins are an important part. However, we urge people who feel sick not to travel to cabins, and also take their precautions regarding the corona situation, including home quarantine. As far as I am informed, there are special ‘corona rules’ for using the cabins owned, for example, by the Longyearbyen Hunting and Fishing Club.”

The governor has also issued repeated warnings for people not to engage in activities that may require emergency or other rescues, due to Svalbard’s isolation and shortage of crisis personnel/resources.

The hunting and fishing club, as well as Svalbard Turn and To-Takteren Longyearbyen in a “sharing” arrangement, is offering their cabins to all residents. A post at the club’s Facebook page Thursday states those interested in staying at those cabins should submit applications for the weekend before Easter and Easter weekend for consideration.

As for other home-away-from-home options, a search of Visit Svalbard’s website shows the only available lodging between now and April 13 are Barentsburg’s hotel and hostel, and Svalbard Hotell in Longyearbyen (The associated The Vault hotel, while listed, at present has closed its guest rooms).

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