Another round of restrictions due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Norway and Europe was announced by Norway’s government on Thursday, including prohibiting restaurants with liquor licenses from accepting new customers after 10 p.m., requiring all establishments with alcohol to close at midnight, reducing the size of public gatherings and imposing a range of stricter entry/quarantine requirements for travellers.
The changes for restaurants and bars go into effect at midnight Saturday, and the limits on gathering sizes at midnight Monday. The government also issued a lengthy list of recommendations for individuals and municipalities.
The new restrictions – the latest of a series of limits imposed the past couple of months, including last week – are due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases across Europe that is now resulting in a rapid rise in Norway, the government announced in a statement Thursday.
“At the beginning of August there were 300 new infections per week,” the statement notes. “The number of cases has since increased significantly and during the last week of October 3,000 new infections were registered. In the last three weeks we have had more than 6,000 more infected in Norway. The curve gets steeper week by week.”
While the lengthy list of additional recommendations is not mandatory, numerous people and officials in Longyearbyen and nationally are expressing concern about the implications of the suggestions – such as avoiding recreational travel – in terms of prolonging a severe and lengthy economic crisis.
As of midday Thursday, Svalbard remains one of about 10 regions in the world with no officially diagnosed COVID-19 cases. However, the governor and city have imposed numerous restrictions beyond the national ones throughout the pandemic due to the concerns about Svalbard’s remoteness and lack of medical ability to treat an outbreak.
The new restrictions include:
• Restaurants with a liquor license cannot let in new guests after 10 p.m. and all serving establishments with alcohol must close at midnight.
• Limit of up to 20 people at private gatherings in public places and in rented premises, and 50 people at indoor events without fixed seats. Up to 200 people can be at indoor at events where everyone in the audience sits in fixed seats.
• Business travelers in high-infection areas within 10 days of arriving in Norway must now quarantine for 10 days, rather than being allowed an exemption where they can be tested for the virus every three days.
• Travelers from “red” countries must present a certificate of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before entry. “If the person does not present such a test, he or she may be refused entry.” The requirement does not apply to people who regularly come to Norway from Sweden and Finland to work, and “personnel in critical social functions may be exempted when necessary to avoid danger to life and health.” The change goes into effect Monday. This will be implemented from midnight, night to Monday 9 November.
• People arriving in Norway must 1) have a permanent residence in the country, or the employer or client must provide a guarantee of a suitable place of residence upon arrival in Norway, or 2) must stay in quarantine hotels and test themselves during the quarantine period.
The government also issued a series of recommendations for municipalities with heightened infection/risk levels, including:
• Halting recreational sports
• Earlier closing times for restaurants/bars.
• Requiring masks for public transport.
• Closing or restrict businesses and activities that have a high potential for the spread of infection such as swimming pools, gyms, sports halls, bingo halls, museums, libraries, event venues without fixed seats and other public places where many people meet indoors.
Recommendations for individuals include:
• Not having more than five guests in private residences, in addition to household members.
• Avoiding unnecessary domestic travel.