Tag Archives: COVID-19

SVALBARD’S FIRST ‘REAL’ COVID-19 CASE CONFIRMED: Longyearbyen resident in isolation after likely being infected on mainland; case is second in Svalbard, first involving a resident

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Photo by Longyearbyen Lokalstyre

The first Svalbard resident diagnosed with COVID-19 in the archipelago was confirmed Tuesday by Longyearbyen Hospital, with a doctor stating the patient was likely infected on the mainland and is now isolated after being tested during an early stage of the disease.

SVALBARD’S FIRST OFFICIAL COVID-19 CASE: Russian fisherman on vessel near Bjørnya briefly hospitalized in Longyearbyen; officials not worried about risk to others

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It’s official: the first COVID-19 case in Svalbard was recorded this week when a Russian fisherman who was ill aboard a vessel near Bjørnøya was transported to Longyearbyen Hospital for about 13 hours before being sent to the mainland for treatment of the virus. Local and health officials said they do not believe his presence will risk having the disease spread to others in the archipelago.

SWEET SOUND OF FREEDOM: Dark Season Blues and Arctic Chamber Music festivals among Svalbard events turning up the volume after a missed year as COVID-19 restrictions lifted

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While there’s some harsh “post-Covid” tones on the mainland in the form of violent celebration and foreign countries putting Norway in the highest-risk travel categories, the immediate sounds from Svalbard were harmonious as organizers of various upcoming events including two major music festivals announced they are launching/expanding plans following cancellations of last year’s events.

MOST SVALBARD COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS LIFTED: Negative virus test before entry, occupancy/tour/cruise limits nixed as of Saturday as Norway reopens borders to many countries

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Photo by Christopher Michel / Creative Commons

A major step toward resuming “normal everyday life” in Norway begins at 4 p.m. Saturday when most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, including a negative virus test within 24-hours of travel to Svalbard, rigid requirements for conducting tour operations in the archipelago, and capacity limits at lodges and other facilities, officials announced Friday.

However, some Svalbard-related rules remain in effect, including travelers from abroad completing any entry quarantines on the mainland before travelling to the archipelago. Also, while Norway’s borders are opening to many more countries with fewer entry limits (on vaccinated persons in particular), travel from numerous countries considered at-risk (such as the U.S.) is still banned.

REVEALED – POSITIVE COVID-19 TEST IN SVALBARD IN JAN. 2020! Kim Holmén’s positive test after China trip set off panic among officials, but negative follow-up led to ‘no cases’ claims

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“The alarm bells are ringing. Not just in Longyearbyen. They call in the Norwegian Institute of Public Health top management. And the Minister of Health. And the Foreign Minister. And the Prime Minister. That Norway’s first case of COVID-19 has occurred in little Svalbard, with its four doctors, is almost catastrophic.”

That top-level panic in January of 2020, several weeks before a global pandemic was declared, remained unknown to the public until this week when a newly published book revealed a prominent scientist in Longyearbyen tested positive for the virus after returning from a trip to China.

While their fears were averted when a follow-up test was negative – resulting on what an official called “the best exercise we have had” in preparation for outbreaks – it means the claim Svalbard is one of the few places on Earth with no COVID-19 cases is, while not a lie, a distortion of the truth.

UPDATE – NO COVID-19 AT UNIS: Negative tests of suspected people means university will resume activities Thursday; caution urged since many reporting ‘common cold’ symptoms

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Photo courtesy of UNIS

Svalbard is still officially COVID-19 free.

An alert issued Tuesday about possible infections issued by The University Centre in Svalbard was cancelled on Wednesday when negative tests “and other information” indicatec it is safe to resume in-person classes and fieldwork. But officials said numerous locals are experiencing and reporting common cold symptoms, so the need to be cautious remains.

BREAKING – COVID-19 SUSPECTED AT UNIS: University says it will take 48 hours to know if ‘some of our students and colleagues’ are infected; fieldwork, in-person classes cancelled

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Photo courtesy of UNIS

The first cases of COVID-19 may have reached Svalbard, as multiple students and staff at The University Centre in Svalbard are suspected of being infected, according to an e-mail sent through the university system by health, safety and infrastructure director Fred S. Hansen on Tuesday evening.

It will be 48 hours after further tests are conducted Wednesday to know if the people in question have the virus, according to the e-mail. In-person classes and fieldwork are cancelled at least until Sunday.

A SICK TALE OF SVALBARD TOURISM: 75% cancellation of tours, 58% reduction in guest nights in 2020 due to COVID-19 detailed in this passage from gov’t report about tourism rules

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Photo by L.P. Lorentz / Visit Svalbard

It’s a dramatic, concise and clear page that stands out strikingly in an 82-page report mostly filled with bureaucratic jumble about rewriting Svalbard’s tourism laws, summarizing officially the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local tourism in 2020.

The big numbers: a 75 percent cancellation in tours and a 58 percent decrease in guest nights at accommodations. As for the cruise ships that have typically brought tens of thousands of visitors annually? A total of 10 ships carrying an average of 43 passengers managed to visit last year.

The figures, while based in part on the same data as a recent Statistics Norway report about Svalbard’s economy in 2020, are more dismal because they focus exclusively on tourism.

15% LESS REVENUE, 10% FEWER WORK HOURS IN 2020: Economic setbacks of COVID-19 in Svalbard wildly uneven; food/lodging drop 36%, leisure activities 38%

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The 15 percent loss of gross income and 10 percent loss of hours worked were bad for what would be a “normal” year, but hardly indicative of the “90 percent layoffs” and “99 percent loss of business” headlines Longyearbyen saw during the worst of the COVID-19 pamdemic in 2020.

But just as those scary headlines didn’t tell the full story, neither do the year-end cumulative figures for Svalbard as the loss of revenue and man hours varied widly by industry and settlement, according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Norway.according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics Norway.

POLAR PERMACULTURE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY: Owners say COVID-19, lack of assistance for foreigner-owned companies force end to eight-year-old ‘local food’ and tourism project

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Photo of Polar Permaculture’s greenhouse in Nybyen courtesy of Polar Permaculture

Polar Permaculture – which started in 2013 with one man’s dream of a greenhouse producing local food in Longyearbyen, and blossomed into a full-blown produce and tourism company – announced Friday it is filing for bankruptcy due the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of available assistance for companies owned by foreigners.