Two women who made history by spending the past year at a cabin in Svalbard for their “Hearts in the Ice” adventure are being tested for the COVID-19 virus after being dropped off at their remote site by the Roald Amundsen, where an outbreak of the virus infecting more than 35 crew and passengers as of Saturday was detected, according to officials.
In addition, another ship in contact with the two women on Thursday is now anchored in the bay of Longyearbyen without people aboard being allowed to go ashore while passengers and crew are examined.
Sunniva Sørby and Hilde Fålun Strøm of the “Hearts In The Ice” expedition in their cabin at Bamsebu, confirmed on their Facebook page on Saturday night that they have been tested for the virus by a doctor flown down from Longyearbyen Hospital by The Governor of Svalbard. after MS “Roald Amundsen” transported them back to Bamsebu on Tuesday.
“After 12 stressful hours, we were just told that the tests were negative,” they wrote. They also noted “we were carefully looked after by the crew, and are now sorry to hear that there have been COVID-19-cases on board.”
Officials said they will tested again on Monday. The women wrote they plan to continue their research and other activities for the expedition now scheduled to end in September.
Sorby and Strøm took a break from their cabin stay – already prolonged months beyond its original scheduled ending date in the spring due to travel restrictions imposed by the virus – to spend several days in Longyearbyen to resupply and participate in media interviews beginning July 20, according to a post on Sorby’s Facebook page. The women were brought by a tender to the Roald Amundsen the day they were dropped off.
The ship itself did not make any port stops in Svalbard.
Further monitoring of the women will be done in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. As of Saturday evening it does not appear they or anyone in contact with them since their time aboard the Roald Amundsen have been in Longyearbyen or other Svalbard locations.
“They should not have been in any of the settlements on Svalbard after they were on board the M/S Roald Amundsen this week,” Lt. Gov Sølvi Elvedahl said in the statement issued by The Governor of Svalbard on Saturday. “Neither of them have symptoms of infection, but we will still test them in the same way as the other passengers and crew.”
Hurtigruten announced two crew members aboard the ship tested positive before it docked in Tromsø on Friday morning, and at least 35 crew members and one passenger aboard the ship during two week-long voyages in the archipelago since July have now tested positive. All people aboard those ships are under mandatory quarantine orders.
The health institute is urging 69 municipalities globally to follow up on a total of 400 people in some way associated with the infected crews, according to media reports Saturday evening.
(This is breaking story and will be updated as details become available.)