CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR WEDNESDAY: Harbor predicts no big cruise ships and 75% loss of activity for 2020, city asks locals to participate in health survey and more


This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of sign next to that “other” bear sign by Baoqing Du.

Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed coronavirus cases as of late Wednesday morning, but the city is asking residents to complete a Norwegian Institute of Public Health survey  if they suspect they have or had symptoms associasted with the virus, especially during the past seven days.

Longyearbyen Harbormaster Kjetil Bråten said he is expecting no large cruise ships this season since the companies are cancelling itineraries well in advance and a 75 percent drop in total revenue/activity for 2020 if a normal level of traffic returns by fall.

• The ski hill will open at 4 p.m. if there are sufficient volunteers and skiers (maximum of five at a time for one-hour time slots). Contact Aktiv i Friluft Longyearbyen.

• The Longyearbbyen is giving eight BBC micro:bit coding machines to youths in a drawing at 8 p.m. Thursday. Post the names of deserving youth(s) before then in the comments section of this Facebook post.

• All 10th grade exams and all high school written exams are canceled, and all students scheduled to graduate will receive diplomas, Norway’s government announced.

• Two foreign students are seeking Norwegian tutors (“remote” sessions recommended) as part of a local volunteer effort. Contact Zdenka Sokolickova if interested.

• In yet another story illustrating how drastic the crisis is affecting Longyearbyen due to the ban on visitors and 90 percent layoff of tourism employees, Mia Willmann at Svalbard Husky told NRK they are facing selling or killing their dogs if a normal summer season fails to happen since expenses and care for the animals remains a “must-do” priority (original article in English via Google Translate). Editor’s note: In a subsequent online message Svalbard Husky Owner Audun Salte emphasized “putting down our dogs is a drastic and heartbraking worst case scenario we have told NRK can be possible if, IF, this continous into the fall and further. There is no such plan on our side to ‘kill’ our dearest family members during or after the summer. It is a worst case scenario we have enlightened to show the seriousness of what all dog mushing companies are now facing if we do not get any help from the government.”

• Leif Arne Lyngset Nilsen, 42, a local police officer, told Verden’s Gang in an article about how various people throughout Norway are being affected that while it’s “demanding (because) we live in a small and dense society where many are severely affected…it is considered meaningful to contribute in a situation where it is important that people feel as safe as possible. This does not only apply to tasks related to the corona situation. For example, we just had to deal with a situation where a polar bear came too close to the settlement in Longyearbyen.”

In what may be the first “positive” tourism story since the crisis began, a mainland resident who won 1,266,040 kroner in Tuesday night’s lotto told media “I want to go to Svalbard with my husband, so some of the premium must go for a trip when this crisis is over.”

• Commercial fishers in the latest of several setbacks in area waters, say the crisis isn’t affecting demand of king crabs, but it’s nearly impossible to export them now due to the near-elimination of non-domestic fights, High North News reports. (English via Google Translate)

• Longyearbyen School students no longer able to participate in swimming classes posted an online video of their “crisis-period” swimming in the fresh snow from the past several days.

• Svalbard Church, observing a request by Pope Francis for all churches to recite the Lord’s Prayer at noon, posted an online video of Deacon Torunn Sørensen doing so at the world’s northernmost church.

Kroa is now offering new Thai-themed takeaway dishes from 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

• There are 2,830 diagnosed cases, 241 people hospitalized and 14 dead due to the coronavirus crisis, according to the institute of public health.