Tag Archives: coronavirus

‘Gradually and more controlled than on the mainland’: Svalbard reopens to Schengen/EEA residents on July 15, limits continue on some aspects such as charter flights and cruise ship size


A week after announcing mainland Norway will reopen for residents from Schengen Area and EEA countries on July 15, the government extended the order to include Svalbard – but with some limitations due to the archipelago’s ongoing relative lack of medical facilities and remote access for emergency transport.

ZERO COMPARISON: Svalbard/Jan Mayen is WHO’s only ‘zone’ w/ no COVID-19 cases – except Turkmenistan and North Korea (which experts say are lying) and some very tiny islands


Svalbard, while suffering Norway’s worst unemployment and economic loss from the COVID-19, remains the World Health Organization’s only “zone” on Earth with no officially diagnosed cases more than three months after the virus was declared a pandemic.

Aside, that is, from 1) North Korea and Turkmenistan – where words like “out of control” and “starving” are being used by reputable sources to describe the real situation being kept hidden by the countries’ totalitarian leadership; 2) some very tiny Pacific islands; and 3) Antarctica, which literally isn’t on the WHO’s map.

A BIT OF TRIPPING DURING FIRST ‘REOPENING’ DAYS: A trickle rather than a flood of tourists, yet seats on fights scarce; only ship traffic is return of MOSAiC expedition, yet it can’t dock


Which means the only visiting ships similarly stand out for those looking out into the harbor, beginning with the Polarstern science vessel as is spends a few days “in town” before heading to the ice far north of Svalbard to resume the year-long international MOSAiC research expedition. Also arriving this week were the German ships Maria S. Merian and Sonne carrying replacement personnel and supplies. But because of strict rules about passenger ships and foreigners still in place for weeks or months to come, the boats aren’t actually docked here and the transfers are happening at sea.

Guest column: The Soviet Handshake of Norway – Future dreams of an aspiring Arctic adventurer from the East meets past memories from the Kremlin


(Author’s note: As the raging COVID-19 pandemic forces nations to shut their borders, tourism and employment in this Norwegian archipelago have taken a hard hit. With Norway opening its domestic borders as of June 1, there will be some respite but not enough. Tourism needs to be revived and spirits need to be raised for all those facing the heat in this sub-zero climate. This is where my effort goes: a diary as a native of India visiting the Russian settlement of Barentsburg in March of 2019.) 

SVALBARD HOTEL STAYS DROP 98 PERCENT IN APRIL: Decline is Norway’s largest – and Longyearbyen fared even worse


Photo of Pyramiden Hotell by Visit Svalbard.

Hotel stays in Svalbard dropped 98 percent in April compared to a year ago, the sharpest drop in Norway as the archipelago was under the strictest coronavirus restrictions including a total ban on non-urgent entry by non-residents, according to Statistics Norway.

FOREIGN SVALBARD RESIDENTS GET OK TO TRAVEL TO MAINLAND: Norway’s government reverses ban that ‘trapped’ many locals when rest of country reopens June 1


Foreign residents of Svalbard will be allowed to travel to the Norwegian mainland when the country “reopens” on June 1, the government announced Thursday, reversing a ban that infuriated a large percentage of locals who said they felt “trapped” because they faced deportation to their home countries if they attempted to join family members for summer holidays or take other trips.

NON-NORWEGIAN RESIDENTS IN SVALBARD CAN’T TRAVEL TO MAINLAND: Norway’s ‘reopening’ on June 1 doesn’t include hundreds of locals; mayor calls rule ‘completely unreasonable’


It turns out Norway’s “reopening” on June 1 doesn’t apply to all permanent residents, as hundreds in Svalbard will be unable to travel the mainland for non-urgent purposes because they’re not Norwegian citizens.

Concerns by Longyearbyen residents hoping to vacation on the mainland this summer were voiced to local officials, media and Facebook pages after being told the Norwegian government’s lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions for domestic travel didn’t apply to them. Such residents account for about 35 percent of Svalbard’s population.

NO NON-NORDIC TOURISTS UNTIL 2021? Justice ministry asks Parliament to approve special law allowing border to remain closed to most non-citizens/residents until Jan. 1


While Norway is reopening for domestic tourism on June 1 and may allow people from neighboring countries to visit later during the summer, the justice ministry is asking Parliament to approve a special law that would allow the border to remain closed to people who are not Norwegian citizens or permanent residents until Jan. 1, 2021.

A (SOMEWHAT) SOCIALLY DISTANT SYTTENDE MAI IN SVALBARD: Traditional and virtual events bring people together while keeping them apart in first post-quarantine celebration


Ada Feiner-Endresen, 12, knows what it’s like to carry her class banner in Norway’s northernmost Syttende Mai parade, but this year’s experience is almost entirely without peer. As in the literal as well as historical sense, since all of her sixth-grade classmates except one carrying the other end of the banner were kept well away to ensure a proper “socially distant” celebration.

FOREIGNERS CAN’T COME, BUT MAY GET PAID TO LEAVE: International travel ban to remain until Aug. 20; gov’t proposes funding costs for ‘exempt’ residents to return to homeland


Svalbard may be reopening for tourism on June 1, but foreigners hoping they might be able to visit later this summer may want to make other plans since Norway’s border is now scheduled to remain closed until at least Aug. 20, although assessments during the next two months may alter the restrictions for nearby countries.

However, for the hundreds of foreign residents of Longyearbyen who are laid off from tourism and other jobs, and now facing an even more bleak situation since special short-term emergency funding for them is about to end, the government is evaluating a plan to pay the costs for those wishing to return to their home country.