CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR FRIDAY: Questions for beyond the initial shock/impacts, sharing dreams of future trips, serious tips from cartoon polar bears and more

polarbeardistancing

This story will be updated throughout the day. One of the many “polar bear social distancing” guidelines circulating on social media posted by Eric Larsen. For more handy illustrated tips by our local Isbjörnar, created by Haakon Sandvik, see below.

Is Svalbard’s virus-free status merely a short-term blessing?

That question is posed today in a column by High North News Editor Arne Holm, who notes it now seems routine for the staff to go over figures every morning at their digital meeting and learn “Svalbard is still infection-free. There are still vast areas of the Arctic that have no Corona-related deaths. The infection rates are still very low.”

“So we chase down experts who can tell us why it is so,” he wrote. “Whether this is a trend that will last because we live dispersed across the country, and because we have taken measures to shield ourselves against the rest of the respective nations of which we are part, or whether we are just briefly blessed with the postponing of a greater outbreak. A postponing that may nevertheless grant us valuable time to better manage the outbreak if and when it may occur in full force. Nobody can answer this.”

It’s hardly the only question now being asked about the archipelago’s fate beyond the next day or week as the immediate shock/containment/layoffs passes.

Isbjörnartips

Isbjörnar does his civic duty in sharing coronavirus safety guidelines for Longyearbyen residents in this city-sponsored advisory published in this week’s Svalbardposten (click thumbnail for full-size image in new window). Illustrations by Haakon Sandvik.

Among Friday’s announcements/developments:

• An additional 59 people in Svalbard have registered as unemployed with the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration during the past week, bringing the local total to 330. Nationally as of the end of March 301,000 people were registered as fully unemployed, or 10.7 percent of the workforce, with tourism the hardest hit at 25.8 percent and education the lowest at 2.7 percent.

Visit Svalbard has launched an “add your vacation to Svalbard” Facebook group for locals and tourists who’ve been here or are hoping to visit to share travel tips, stories and questions for when the travel ban is lifted. Response by numerous locals sharing an array of impressive photos has been rather swift.

The youth ski hill is open today from 6-8 p.m. with up to seven people at a time able to sign up for one-hour time slots.

Tio Moncho’s Mexican Food Truck will be offering deliveries from 4-9 p.m.

Svalbard Delivery Service will be available beginning at 3:30 p.m.

A day trip to the ice edge at Pyramiden aboard the M/S Billefjord is being offered from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Price is 950 kr. for adults and 500 kr. for youths. Additional trips are tentatively planned April 9, 11 and 13. Contact Facebook link above for bookings. Walk-ons at the dock will be accepted if there is capacity under the safety guidelines.

This year’s Trappers Trail sleddog race, scheduled after the Easter holiday, has been cancelled.