It’s no longer free as of Tuesday to get a quick COVID-19 test at the Tromsø airport for those needing the newly mandated negative test to travel to Svalbard, but the fee of 550 kroner being charged by the city is a far better bargain than the 1,300 being charged at Gardermoen Airport in Oslo (and up to 3,000 kroner elsewhere in the city).
Alas, the city-provided tests are only being offered at the airport through Sunday.
The new requirement of a test within 24 hours of travelling to Svalbard announced last Friday by Norway’s government touched off a wave of confusion and anger, with how and where to obtain tests quickly being among the foremost concerns.
The luckiest travellers discovered the free tests at the Tromsø airport and quickly spread the word via social media and other means. But the city of Tromsø issued a press release Monday stating implementing a fee was necessary due to the costs the city incurs administering the tests.
“The municipality is not obliged to provide a test offer at the airport, but wants to offer voluntary testing for travellers who arrive with the Oslo planes to Tromsø,” Øivind Benjaminsen, head of the management team at the city’s COVID-19 enter, said in a prepared statement. “Thus, we can also offer quick testing for travellers going to Svalbard as long as they are at the airport around or before the Oslo planes’ arrival time.”
Travellers will be responsible for arranging their own tests after this coming Sunday, according to the city. Also, according to Benjaminsen, the quick tests being used are not quite as reliable as standard PCR tests and are not being used for travellers who need a negative virus test to enter Norway. (For someone coming from an outside country to Svalbard, the person must have a negative test to enter Norway, quarantine on the mainland for 10 days and then obtain a second negative test to enter Svalbard.)
Numerous residents in Svalbard and elsewhere are complaining about being charged fees for a mandated test which in many cases is so people can return home or to jobs. Adding to that aggravation is the inconsistency in fees, with many calling the 1,300 kroner fee at the airport in Oslo (to say nothing of the higher quick-test fees elsewhere) excessive.
But Per Brochmann, destination director for Hurtigruten Svalbard, told NRK the fee being imposed in Tromsø is better than alternatives such as a quarantine period in Svalbard – or an outright travel ban as happened last year at the outset of the pandemic.
“We think it is positive that they doing this rather than closure and quarantine,” he said. “Of three painful options this was the best. As of today we have no infections up here and our experience that the guests think it is a positive.”