Tag Archives: COVID-19

GOVERNOR – DON’T TRAVEL TO/FROM SVALBARD UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY: Advisory issued Monday is not a ban, but major new restrictions on mainland being closely watched

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People are urged to avoid all travel to and from Svalbard unless absolutely necessary, meaning vacations and other “leisure trips” should not occur, The Governor of Svalbard announced Monday afternoon.

The alert is not a mandate, but a rapidly worsening COVID-19 situation on the mainland due to the rapid spread of the mutated U.K. strain means local officials are keeping a constant watch to see if a heightened risk to Svalbard – and therefore an official ban and/or other lockdown measures – will be ordered.

POLARJAZZ IN A PANDEMIC: Smaller lineup, bands and crowds – but it’s Svalbard’s first major music festival of the COVID-19 era thanks to a wonder of creative thinking and improvisation

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Photo of 2020 Vorspiel show courtesy of Polarjazz

Given it’s a marvel there’s a Polarjazz at all given the continuing COVID-19 circumstances, there’s some rather marvelous offerings what’s a limited schedule for the world’s northernmost jazz festival next month.

PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES ALCOHOL BAN: Establishments serving food will be able to serve again starting Friday; Svalbardhallen also reopening on a limited basis Wednesday

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It will be possible to order booze with your meal again starting Friday – and get a workout to offset those calories starting today – after Norway’s Parliament on Tuesday voted to override a decision by Prime Minister Erna Solberg a day earlier to continue an ban on serving alcohol at restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city also announced Svalbardhallen will reopen – primarily for youth activities – starting Wednesday, part of a serious of local reopenings and cancellations/postponements related to the virus.

‘INDEFINITE’ ALCOHOL BAN, MOST OTHER COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS CONTINUED: Norway’s government relaxes some youth-related rules, but continues others due to uncertainty

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Good news: Norway’s Institute of Public Health decided it’s safe to lift the alcohol ban at bars and restaurants. Bad news: Norway’s government opted to follow other health officials’s advice and extend the ban indefinitely. Good news: “indefinitely” could end as soon as next week.

In all, it summarizes the government’s latest announcement on COVID-19 restrictions Monday: While the situation appears somewhat better than when a round of tougher rules took effect two weeks, things are still uncertain enough in the midst of a “third wave” of infections to leave most of the measures in place.

EXTRA COVID-19 PRECAUTIONS EXTENDED: Digital teaching at UNIS until Feb. 1, norway to test all newcomers at border, recent restrictions ‘will most probably be extended’

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Photo by Ashton Fantastic

A sign of the extended COVID-19 restrictions likely to occur in the coming days came this week as The University Centre in Svalbard announced it all-digital teaching will continue until at least Feb. 1, with Norway also toughening it entry requirements and advising against foreign travel until at least March.

TOURISTS QUARANTINED AT HOTEL: Visitors were in contact with COVID-19-infected person on mainland; all have tested negative and are asymptomatic so far

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A handful of visitors are being quarantined at a hotel in Longyearbyen due to their close contact with a COVID-19-infected person on the mainland before their arrival, according to Knut Selmer, the infection control doctor at Longyearbyen Hospital.

The tourists have tested negative so far, are asymptomatic and are near the end of the mandated 10-day quarantine period, Selmer told Svalbardposten, which first reported the situation Saturday morning.

MASK MOVEMENT: Longyearbyen residents, many of them maskless during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, now covering up due to warnings and returning travellers

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Else-Marie Prytz says she didn’t wear a face mask during the months following the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic last March, when the most extreme local restrictions were in effect including a total ban on tourist coming to Svalbard. But she was wearing one for the first time while shopping at Svalbardbutikken on Tuesday afternoon in the wake of a new wave of infections in Norway and Europe, prompting a new set of restrictions and a strong recommendation from local officials to wear masks.

NEW COVID-19 RULES AS OF MONDAY: Total alcohol ban at restaurants/bars, gyms/pools closed, many public gatherings/ events cancelled until Jan. 18 due to third wave of cases

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A post-Christmas rise in COVID-19 cases that is “spreading to new parts of the country” means a new series of restrictions and recommendations are being enacted until at least Jan. 18, Prime Minister Era Solberg said Sunday.

The new restrictions, effective as of Monday, include a total ban on serving alcohol in restaurants and pubs, closing public gyms and swimming pools, restricting university classes to online-only and smaller size limits for private/public gatherings that effectively will cancel many of them, Solberg and other government officials said during a press conference in Oslo.

Among the local impacts are the closure of Svalbardhallen, and in-person public services at the city and governor’s offices. Officials are also recommending the use of masks in shops, restaurants, the airport and other common areas “where it is difficult to keep a distance of one meter.”

NO BOOZE FOR NEW YEAR’S: Ban on serving alcohol after midnight means Longyearbyen revelers at hotels and pubs have to leave champagne inside; and about that ‘recovery’ workout…

Those hoping to toast the departure of a dismal 2020 at midnight are getting a sobering reminder of the realities that will still exist in 2021 as city and tourism officials are reminding people that hotel and pub guests cannot toast the occasion with champagne when they’re outside to watch the fireworks, due to a COVID-19 restriction banning the serving of alcohol after midnight.

Also, for those who New Year’s resolutions include workouts at the gym, the city announced Wednesday a 10-day quarantine requirement is now in effect at Svalbardhallen for residents who’ve traveled to the mainland for the holidays or other reasons.

SVALBARD RESIDENTS INFECTED W/ COVID-19 ON MAINLAND: Locals w/ virus must stay on mainland until isolation and recovery is complete; warning issued to returning travellers

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Some permanent residents of Svalbard are getting a longer stay than planned on the mainland after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus during the Christmas holidays, meaning they cannot return until their isolation and recovery period is complete, officials at Longyearbyen Hospital and The Governor of Svalbard announced Wednesday.

The cases also highlight the importance of Svalbard residents to be responsible and take precautions when returning from the holidays.