Tag Archives: coronavirus

NOW THIS IS A COOL WAY SVALBARD’S GONE VIRUAL: New Facebook hub for ‘dream trips’ by those who been for those who want to come gets nearly 2,500 members in first 24 hours

dreamtrips

There’s been no shortage of ways to visit Svalbard virtually in recent years but, since that’s now the only way for outsiders to experience the archipelago for what may be many months due to coronavirus restrictions, a new online “dream trip” portal for those with such experiences sharing them with folks hoping to do so someday is growing at a rate COVID-19 can’t possibly match.

A “Legg Ferien til Svalbard” Facebook page launched by Visit Svalbard at midday Friday had nearly 2,500 members sign up during the first 24 hours. Hundreds of photos by those with dozens with tales to tell are being shared from all areas in the archipalago in multiple languages by local residents, tour guides, visitors with blogs and other sites, and others.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE FOR SATURDAY: FAQ from ‘digital’ community meeting released, virtual local vacation page goes, um, viral and more

pyramiden trip

This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of “we’re so royally headed straight toward the ice” moment, Pyramiden version, by Guro Skjelderup.

They didn’t answer all the questions and not all of the answers were well-liked, a list of questions and responses from a “digital” community meeting hosted by The Governor of Svalbard, city leaders and health officials at Longyearbyen Hospital is now online in Norwegian and English.

Officials cannot, for example, say what might be arranged with landlords in order to reduce tenants’ rent, what model/strategy for resuming “normal” operations and businesses exists, and when various quarantine restrictions will be lifted. Officials did specify that for now restrictions such as self-quarantine are on an “honorary” basis despite reports of some individuals violating it, but that a stricter crackdown may occur if such violations continue or become more problematic.

Meanwhile, although Svalbard remains almost entirely shut down in the “real-world” sense, a new online group aimed at sharing dream vacations/experiences here is exploding at rate COVID-19 almost certainly can’t possibly reach. The Facebook group “Legg Ferien til Svalbard,” launched by Visit Svalbard, has more than 2,400 members and a huge array of photos/tales as of midday Saturday, 24 hours after it was launched. 

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR THURSDAY: Quarantine for locals arriving from mainland extended until April 10, “digital’ community meeting tonight and more

snowmobiletrip

This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of social-distancing sun-worshiping snowmobilers by Ann Khanittha Chuphu.

A 14-day quarantine for Longyearbyen residents arriving from the mainland, even if they were in quarantine there, will be extended until at least April 10, Svalbard Gov. Kjerstin Askholt announced Thursday.

“The decision is, as before, based on assessments from, among others, the infection control doctor at Longyearbyen Hospital and the emergency response council for Svalbard,” she said in a prepared statement.

While Svalbard remains the only region in the High North free of officially diagnosed cases of COVID-19 as of midday Thursday, the quarantine of residents and a complete ban on visitors are among measures exceeding those on the mainland due to concerns about the archipelago’s isolation and lack of adequate facilities to treat patients.

4M KR. FOR 160 PROJECTS: Longyearbyen council members OK immediate- and medium-range infrastructure repairs/upgrades to help local businesses during coronavirus crisis

localprojects

Spending four million kroner for locals to perform a wide range of projects – from simple tasks like cleaning and painting the school to those requiring specialized skills such as repairing and upgrading the city’s power plant – was approved Wednesday by Longyearbyen Community Council members seeking to help a community facing economic peril due to the coronavirus crisis.

The plan approved during a meeting of the council’s Administration Committee (details begin on page 21 of the meeting’s agenda) includes a lengthy list of projects, some of which can begin immediately and others with projected starting dates extending into next year.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR WEDNESDAY: ‘Digital’ community crisis meeting, church hosting online and outdoor holiday services, Isfjord Radio open for Easter

foxnews

This “fox news” update will include items added throughout the day. Photo by Merethe Stiberg.

As Svalbard remains the only region in the High North officially free of coronavirus cases as of noon April 1 (no joke), there’s also actually some other relatively good news in terms of an isolated community being able to come together again (also not a joke) even if it’s still not in ways entirely normal.

A public “digital meeting” featuring updates about the crisis from leaders of the Longyearbyen Community Council, The Governor of Svalbard and Longyearbyen Hospital is scheduled at 6 p.m. Thursday. People can observe the Kuturhuset meeting via Facebook on computer and mobile devices, and ask questions in Norwegian and English in the comments box during the live stream.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR TUESDAY: Vacant housing, full cabins, Bruktikken reopens, MOSAiC researchers reenter spooky world after four isolated months and more

moasicreturn

This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of researchers walking to the Polarstern frozen in the ice north of Svalbard courtesy of the Alfred Wegener Institute. 

It’s no joke – for those looking for a place to live in Longyearbyen starting in April there’s a realistic possibility of vacancies.

Among the reasons that’s not a joke, of course, is it’s no laughing matter the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic – even though there remains no officially diagnosed cases in Svalbard as of midday Tuesday – include people being forced from their homes and/or Longyearbyen because of the massive tourism and other layoffs. As a result listings for shared rooms and apartments are popping up during what’s normally a peak demand period – although for the past year or so there’s often been nothing available even during “slow” periods.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR MONDAY: Svalbard one of two virus-free regions in Norway, local leaders awaiting “exempt” aid specifics, afternoon skiing and hiking

beachhike

This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of Mihaela Cafuta walking along shore, where a community hike is planned this evening, by Romano Juric.

With all but two “county” regions of Norway now reporting at least 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus – and the rapid number of those requiring hospitalization a foremost concern – Svalbard remains free of known cases as of midday Monday. In general the fewest cases are in northern mainland areas, with the 140 combined cases in Troms and Finnmark the third-lowest nationally.

While numerous questions are being expressed about the government’s preliminary plan to provide seven million kroner in emergency aid for “exempt” Longyearbyen residents who’ve been laid off – along with many complaints about the 20-day benefit limit compared to the many months of help that Norwegian and EU/EEA citizens here are eligible for – local leaders are still awaiting the final plan and specifics (press release from city noting development of application process is underway).

“This money is distributed according to fixed criteria,” Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen wrote in an online interview Sunday. “There is, as I have seen, no room for discretionary assessments. It will also be (the local council) who will administrer the scheme. Exactly how we rig the system it is not entirely clear, but as mention: fixed criteria.”

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR SUNDAY: Arctic Husky Travellers seeking homes for dogs, government seeks to boost local emergency rescue capabilities and more

sleddog

This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of Nokas, left, a six-year-old “friendly and gentele sleddog,” by Tommy Jordbrudal.

Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed cases of coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon and…regardless, all is not well.

While some more families in are being observed together doing “typical” leisure activities as the coronavirus crisis enters its third weekend in Longyearbyen, such as playing in fresh snow and gathering in the cafes/restaurants still open, one outdoorsy family is confronting the painful prospect of a breakup due to the near-total and likely months-long tourism crash.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR SATURDAY: UNIS cancels summer classes, ‘doomsday vault’ meets COVID-19, MOSAiC updates, an hour of Sunday is ‘cancelled’ and more

playingwithblocks

This story will be updated throughout the day. Sure Mark, no problem. Photo of Tarjei Våtvik and his kids, Emmett and Liam, playing with blocks “Svalbard-style” taken by their mother, M Daiane Alvarenga Våtvik.

As if Longyearbyen hasn’t lost enough jobs, things to do and everything else due to the coronavirus pandemic, now we’re losing an hour of tomorrow.

That’s not COVID-19’s fault, of course, because Father Time was going to start Daylight Savings Time here at 2 a.m. Sunday regardless of how old he’s getting since he seems to have an immunity thing to the virus that still has no official cases in Svalbard as of 1 p.m. Saturday. But it is worth keeping in mind if, say, you’re hoping to go a community snowball fight scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday at a place to be announced presumably well before then.

So far it appears Svalbard is experiencing its third straight abnormally quiet weekend –and remember, while it might seem forever ago, Norway’s quarantine has only been in effect since two weeks old Fridays ago. But with local tourism and public officials increasingly conceding longer-term consequences such as the near-total loss of the summer cruise ship season, other entities such as The University Centre in Svalbard are announcing similar cancellations.

7M KRONER IN CRISIS AID FOR SVALBARD’S ‘EXEMPT’ LAID-OFF EMPLOYEES: Preliminary plan by Norway’s government offers 20 days of benefits, effective until June 20

crisisplan

Svalbard residents exempt from regular unemployment/insurance benefits because they are from non-EU/EEU countries will be eligible for 20 days of benefits until June 20, according to a preliminary crisis plan announced Friday by Norway’s government.

The Svalbard section of the nationwide plan – drafted due to a March 19 request of Parliament, which will need to approve the final proposal – is “a one-time limited crisis package for Svalbard because of the consequences the coronavirus has had and will have for the settlements in Svalbard,” the report states.

“Employees as mentioned above and registered in the population registry with addresses in Longyearbyen will be able to receive benefits based on social assistance rates for up to 20 days, up to June 20,” the plan states (which, practically speaking, means four five-day work weeks). “For families with children with a registered living time of at least six months benefits may be received throughout the period up to June 20.”