CORONAVIRUS UPDATES FOR SVALBARD FOR THURSDAY: May 1 events cancelled, May 17 events uncertain; businesses adjust hours again; Norwegian Air teetering on the brink and more


This story will be updated throughout the day (most recent update 4:50 p.m.). Cartoon of Svalbard polar bears behaving bizarrely by Nils Peterson/Norwegian Polar Institute.

Traditional May Day events have been cancelled and local Norwegian Constitution Day events are at the very least expected to be limited due to the coronavirus crisis, Svalbardposten reported Thursday.

A procession to the center of Longyearbyen, speeches and other labor-focused events usually take place every May 1 but, as with elsewhere in Norway and much of Europe, bans on large-scale public gatherings in effect the past month will remain so at the beginning of next month, the newspaper reported. Around that date, local officials say they expect to have a better sense of what will happen for Norway’s national holiday on May 17, commonly known as syttende mai.

“I would assume that there will be some limitations to what is usual to do,” City Manager Hege Walør Fagertun told Svalbardposten, adding guidelines set by national leaders will largely play a role in determining local events.

Longer-term threats affecting both visitors and locals continue to accumulate as Norwegian Air, struggling before the crisis and now largely grounded with 90 percent of its staff laid off, is telling its UK employees they will not be paid until at least May 1. The airline is trying to approve a major restructuring plan in order to qualify for a three billion kroner emergency loan from Norway’s government, but so far only qualifies for 10 percent of that amount. Shares of the discount carrier, which is providing service between Longyearbyen and mainland Norway on an alternating days basis, lost most of their value this week and the company is now officially under “special observation,” with some analysts stating it is “at the end of the line.”

In other events/announcements:

A guide for parents of kindergarten students (PDF) issued nationally has been reposted by the city with local kindergartens scheduled to reopen Monday.

• Fruene has again adjusted its hours and is now open for coffee only at 10 a.m. and regular service at 11 a.m. Monday-Saturday. It closes at 5 p.m. and all days except Thursday when it is open until 6 p.m. The cafe is closed Sundays.

• Rabalder Café and Bakery is open daily from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

The ski hill will be open from 1:15-3:15 p.m. today. Youths can sign up in one-hour time slots.

Longyearbyen Library’s book taxi is making deliveries from 3-5 p.m. Orders must be submitted by 2 p.m.

Svalbard Vet has revised its non-emergency hours and is now open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Svalbard Delivery Service is available until midnight.

A “last sunset” dinner and cruise aboard the M/S Billefjord before the midnight sun season begins is being offered from 3:30-11 p.m. Saturday. Price is 950 kroner for adults, 500 kroner for youths. Reservations via PM.

The Trapper’s Trail sleddog race, officially cancelled this year, is planning to offer its prizes to interested persons, including two 15-kilogram bags of high-energy dog food that will be given away in a drawing April 21 for those who sign up online.

• The Norwegian Polar Institute has released some online diversions, including a trio of short “video books” about Norwegian/Russian research efforts on topics including marine life and the Northern Lights, and a polar bear drawing competition with entries due April 30.