Briefs from Svalbardposten for the week of March 1, 2021


Emergency calls to the fire department decline in 2020 due largely to the loss of visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, 22 foreigners from eight different countries received a total of 285,000 kroner in “travel-home” COVID-19 grants last fall and a frisbee golf course is expected debut this spring.

Fire department calls hit eight-year low due to COVID-19
The 135 fire-related callouts by the Longyearbyen Fire Department in 2020 was the fewest since 2012, due largely to a drastically lower number of visitors after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March, according to Chief Jan Olav Sætre. Of those, 79 were classified as unnecessary due to merely being smoke or fumes from cooking, or excessive steam that can trigger alarms. There were also 30 false fire alarms. Of the 13 structure fires, four were the “dry cooking” type – where often-intoxicated people fell asleep while food was on the stove or in an oven – that for several years was a top concern of the department due to their risk of spreading rapidly in densely occupied residential structures. The department also responded to 87 ambulance assignments.

22 individual foreigners use ‘go-home’ COVID-19 grants, but no families
A total of 22 foreign residents of Longyearbyen from eight countries received 285,000 kroner in cumulative grants to return to their homelands last fall due to the devastating long-term economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Longyearbyen’s municipal government. No families received grants, because of the strong daycare/education offerings available and the requirement the entire family return home. “We are left with the impression that these were difficult decisions to make for the individual applicant and especially families,” the city wrote in a grant report summary. “Many have lived in Longyearbyen for many years and consider Longyearbyen as their home.” Of the funds, 267,658 kroner was used for airline tickets and 17,600 for other travel expenses.. Thais and Filipinos were the largest group of grant recipients with 14, with others returning to various countries South America and one to Canada.

Frisbee golf course being set up near school
A frisbee golf course between the outdoor ice rink and south end of Longyearbyen School is being set up and expected to open this spring, according to Merethe Stiberg, leader of the recreational group Aktiv I Friluft Longyearbyen. The nine “hole” course, which received 88,000 kroner in donations from SpareBank1 and SvalSat, will be open to the public, once the custom and relocatable baskets are set up. “There are no natural obstacles here as there are on the mainland,” Stilberg said. “Down there, there are trees that make the game more challenging. Therefore it is good that the foundation of the baskets can be moved if we find more natural obstacles for the course.”.