A coronavirus alert at Svea on Thursday morning briefly resulted in access to the former coal mining settlement being suspended due to concerns raised about visitors after a person Tromsø became Norway’s first positive test of the virus on Wednesday, according to officials.
Text messages about the restriction and it being lifted an hour or two later was sent to people scheduled to fly to Svea during the morning. Officials for The Governor of Svalbard, Longyearbyen Hospital and Store Norske confirmed the alert, but referred all questions to The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Tromsø’s University Hospital of Northern Norway. A spokesperson at the hospital in Tromsø said she is not aware of the situation and inquiries to the institute were not immediately returned.
All people on the flight of the person who tested positive are being contacted by health officials, according to NRK. It is not known if the alert at Svea was because a person there was on that flight, otherwise in contact with individuals of concern, or it was a false alarm about a person with no connection.
Several people contacted Longyearbyen Hospital expressing concerns after the announcement of the case in Tromsø, Svalbardposten reported Thursday afternoon. Bente Brataas, an official at the hospital, told the newspaper doctors are deciding how to handle each inquiry individually, but so far no testing has been deemed necessary.
The newspaper also reported the hospital received “a phone call from a person from one of the small communities in Svalbard who was concerned about infection. He was told to stay in the room until a doctor had made an assessment. It was done in a matter of hours.”
Svea is in the process of being dismantled after the Norwegian government opted to close most of Store Norske’s coal mining operations. In addition to construction workers and others involved with the dismantling, the settlement is also visited by tourists during the spring snowmobile season.
Norway’s first positive test of the coronavirus was announced by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health at a press conference on Wednesday. The person is resident of northern Norway, and is healthy and has no symptoms of coronavirus disease, according to Line Vold, head of infection control and preparedness for the institute.
The person was tested after returning from one of the areas in China affected by the outbreak, the institute said in a separate statement on its website. The risk of infection from the individual was deemed very unlikely, but the person has been placed under home quarantine and possible contacts are being traced to ensure no transmission has occurred.
“Analysis of the test performed today show a weak positive result, while a previous analysis was negative,” Vold said in the statement. “The analyses of the sample shows traces of coronavirus. The method of analysis is sensitive enough to detect inactive viruses.”
About 50 tests have been taken in Oslo over the past 48 hours and the individuals have been asked to keep themselves isolated until the results are ready, Verdens Gang reported Thursday, citing an Oslo Health Authority spokesman.
The virus has been detected in 47 countries on every continent but Antarctica as of Thursday, and there are now more cases outside China than within, according to global news reports.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report. This is a breaking story and will be updated as details are available.