CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR TUESDAY: Norway says virus ‘under control’ for now, mayor proposes benefits for ‘exempt’ residents, extra Svalbardbutikken hours


This story will be updated throughout the day. Photo of local inhabitant checking in on visiting MOSAiC project researchers aboard a ship in the sea ice north of Svalbard by Christian Katlein.

As Svalbard remains free of officially diagnosed cases of coronavirus as of midday Tuesday, the rest of Norway got some relatively positive news as Minister of Health Bent Høie preventative measures have dropped the reproduction rate of the virus to 0.7 percent – meaning infected individuals are transmitting it to less than one person – which “means that we have the corona infection under control.”

But health officials also emphasized Monday the the situation can easily get out of control again so keeping preventative measures in place are necessary. Before restrictions were enacted Norway’s reproduction rate was 2.5 percent.

Meanwhile, economic health remains the dominant concern in Longyearbyen, with Svalbardposten reporting about 130 of an estimated 300 laid-off workers exempt from Norway’s regular benefits applying for seven million kroner in emergency short-term aid approved by Parliament. Mayor Arild Olsen also told the newspaper he believes a policy should be enacted requiring employees to provide benefits for exempt employees.

In other developments/announcements today:

Svalbardbutikken will be open an extra two hours Wednesday evening, until 8 p.m., before closing Thursday and Friday due to the Easter holidays. The store will be open from 11 a.m.-4 p..m. Saturday, closed Sunday and open 3-6 p.m. before resuming regular hours.

The Longyearbyen Youth Club is having a daily drawing for an Easter treats package, with an extra-large “egg” of items on Easter Day.

An overnight Saturday-Sunday guided trip to Pyramiden is being offered for 2,200 kroner to people with their own snowmobiles (double accommodation, 800 kr. single supplement)  Contact 9413 0128 or 9415 4156.

• Also in Pyramiden, the settlement is selling 20-liter cans of fuel for 400 kroner at the hotel. Contact 9413 0128 for details.

Svalbard Villmarkssenter is seeking donations via Vipps (9079 0076) to help pay for dog food.

The youth ski hill will be open from 2-4 p.m. today. Sign up in advance at the Facebook link.

• Self-isolation tips are offered by the two woman spending what was supposed to be nine months (and now more) in a remote cabin in Svalbard during their Hearts In The Ice project.