90 PERCENT OF NORMAL: Guest lodging in Svalbard can be nearly full, up from 60-70 percent, as COVID-19 recovery continues; some rooms still kept vacant in case of quarantine

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Hotels and other guest lodging in Svalbard can now be booked to 90 percent capacity, up from the current limit of 60 to 70 percent, as widespread vaccinations are helping the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Norway’s government announced Friday.

Occupancy was limited to 60 percent with shared bathrooms and 70 percent with included bathrooms, but the new limit will apply regardless of room type, Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Monica Mæland said in a prepared statement. The restrictions have been in place because Svalbard cannot implement quarantine or isolation measures to the same extent of the mainland due to limited facilities.

“We are now in a situation where the infections are declining nationally, the number of vaccinated is increasing day by day and fewer patients are being treated for COVID-19,” she said. “The other infection control measures that apply specifically to Svalbard are thus be assessed together with the national situation.”

The 10 percent of rooms remaining vacant will be used if a quarantine or isolation of suspect persons is necessary, according to the statement.

Svalbard is one of the only places in the world with no officially diagnosed COVID-19 cases, although there have been a few incidents of visitors being isolated after contacts with infected people on the mainland were revealed after they arrived.

Some strict infection control measures beyond those on the mainland remain in place, including a requirement all incoming passengers submit a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure to Svalbard. Also, any mandatory quarantine for people arriving outside Norway – or imposed while in the country – must be completed on the mainland.