GREEN MEANS GO: Norway matches EU rules, allows vaccinated travellers and those in ‘green’ countries to enter without quarantine as of Monday – but ‘full opening’ stage delayed

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Travellers from 23 European countries can enter Norway without quarantine requirements as of Monday, although a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours is still required to enter Svalbard. However, the government also announced it is delaying a “full opening” at least until the end of July due to concerns Delta coronavirus variant.

Tourists from outside the EU/EEA are still banned from entering, regardless of vaccination status. Also, some of the “green” countries, including Sweden and Denmark, have regions where higher-level restrictions remain in effect.

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A map shows travel restrictions that apply to Europeans entering Norway as of Monday. those shaded in green can enter without a mandatory quarantine, but must still be tested for the COVID-19 virus upon arrival. Map by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The newest easing of rules – essentially implementing part of the “fourth stage” in the government’s four-step process of returning to “normal” (albeit not 100 percent) – was welcome news to some Longyearbyen tourism companies even though the majority of traditional summer visitor activity has been cancelled for a second straight year.

“A new map was released today, and it is looking better and better,” wrote Michelle van Dijk, owner of Longyearbyen Camping, in a post on the campsite’s Facebook page. “Therefore we plan to open Longyearbyen Camping next month on Aug. 6.”

The newest easing of rules means:

• All travellers from “green countries” in Europe can enter Norway with no quarantine requirements, matching the rules in use by the EU.

• Norwegian ad foreign citizens living in Norway can enter.

• Norway’s ‘vaccine passport‘ and the EU equivalent allow entry without quarantine.

However, people from higher-risk countries/regions, other than those falling in exempt categories, must still be tested upon arrive and be quarantined.

The list of regions within green countries still subject to restrictions is lengthy. In Sweden, for example, the regions of Blekinge, Jönköping and Kalmar  are classified as orange, while Kronoberg, Norrbotten and Värmland  are classified as red. In Denmark the Capital Region (including Copenhagen) is orange. In Finland the region of Kainuu is orange.

Longyearbyen suffered the worst economic consequences of the pandemic of any municipality in Norway due to extra-strict restrictions intended (successfully) to keep the COVID-19 virus from reaching Svalbard. The government also made Longyearbyen residents a priority for vaccinations, with essentially all adults wanting shots now fully immunized.

While a regular stream of tourists are now arriving in Svalbard by air, this year’s cruise ship season is largely lost despite the government easing restrictions last month. While it’s possible for ships with up to 2,000 combined passengers and crew to travel to Svalbard if all can show proof of vaccination, scheduling and booking such voyages on short notice isn’t plausible for most companies.

As a result, the Port of Longyear shows a a threadbare schedule for arrives in July, with four ships docking a total of six times. The only cruise ship listed is the 12-passenger Polaris I, with the others consisting of research vessels and a “lightvessel” (a ship designed to act as a lighthouse).

The schedule does get considerably fuller in August with numerous cruise ships arriving at the beginning of the month, although activity tapers off – as would be expected – at the beginning of September.

The delay in other reopening measures means bars and restaurants are still limited to table service, there is a limit of 20 people on gatherings in private homes, and restrictions remain adult recreational sports.

“There is a risk that the Delta variant will cause a fourth wave of infection in the unvaccinated part of the population, among those who have only received one dose or are in vulnerable groups,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said during a press conference.