The stoke of midnight Sunday will be a sobering chime for patrons in bars and restaurants in Longyearbyen as well as the rest of Norway, as a ban on serving alcohol after that hour will go into effect indefinitely to slow down the adverse COVID-19 related impacts resulting from the “reopening” of Norway beginning in June.
“There is a connection between alcohol consumption and how you behave,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Dagbladet.
The restriction is among several being immediately enacted, including opening COVID-19 test centers at border crossings, airports and ports, and requiring travellers arriving from “red” countries to wear face masks from their arrival until they reach where they will spend a mandatory ten days in quarantine.
“I think most people realize the party is now over,” Bent Høie, Norway’s health minister, said at a press conference Friday.
There were 196 new coronavirus infections in Norway for the week beginning July 27, compared with 94 the previous week.
Apparently some folks in Svalbard were hoping for an exemption from the post-midnight alcohol ban, since the archipelago is one of the few remaining places in the world with no diagnosed COVID-19 cases and “the rules” in general can be different from the mainland. But The Governor of Svalbard quickly quashed any such thoughts with its own short statement shortly after the national announce, simply declaring “this also applies to restaurants and nightclubs on Svalbard.”
Local restaurant and bar managers interviewed by Svalbardposten generally said they understood the restriction from a safety and government perspective, but it likely will have severe impacts that may affect the relatively few employees they’ve been able to retain or hire back since the pandemic erupted.