MULTIPLE COVID-19 CASES IN LONGYEARBYEN PROMPT EMERGENCY MEETING: Several measures including free self-tests implemented, but ‘no need to impose strict measures’

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Multiple cases of COVID-19 in Longyearbyen among residents and visitors prompted a meeting of the local emergency council Thursday and the implementation of several measures, but officials said there is no need yet to impose strict infection-control measures.

“We encourage people to keep their distance, use hand alcohol, stay at home if you are ill, and test yourself if you have symptoms of infection,” Knut Selmer, the infection control doctor at Longyearbyen Hospital, said in a prepared statement. Also, “we recommend people use face masks in stores if it is not possible to keep their distance.”

The city is making free self-tests available at a distribution center that will be near the Næringsbygget administrative building.

“As soon as the distribution station is in operation, free self-tests will be distributed to priority groups in Longyearbyen, primarily people with respiratory symptoms, unvaccinated close contacts and kindergarten children, schoolchildren and students,” an announcement posted by the city notes. “Information on the exact location and opening hours of the distribution station will be posted as soon as this is ready.”

Svalbard was until last month one of the few places left in the world with no COVID-19 cases. Despite the inital cases detected, offiicials have stated there is no cause for undue alarm, in part because vaccinations have been fully provided to all adult residents wanting them.