MOST SVALBARD COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS LIFTED: Negative virus test before entry, occupancy/tour/cruise limits nixed as of Saturday as Norway reopens borders to many countries

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Photo by Christopher Michel / Creative Commons

A major step toward resuming “normal everyday life” in Norway begins at 4 p.m. Saturday when most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, including a negative virus test within 24-hours of travel to Svalbard, rigid requirements for conducting tour operations in the archipelago, and capacity limits at lodges and other facilities, officials announced Friday.

However, some Svalbard-related rules remain in effect, including travelers from abroad completing any entry quarantines on the mainland before travelling to the archipelago. Also, while Norway’s borders are opening to many more countries with fewer entry limits (on vaccinated persons in particular), travel from numerous countries considered at-risk (such as the U.S.) is still banned.

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A map shows COVID-19 classifications by country in Europe. Countries in red and dark red are still required to quarantine in Norway under new rules effective Saturday.

“The requirement for a negative corona test before departure to Svalbard is removed,” a press release from The Governor of Svalbard states. “The requirement that entry quarantine be carried out on the mainland before further travel to Svalbard is continued.”

“In addition, the requirements for the implementation of tourism activities and the restriction on occupancy utilization for hotels and accommodation in Svalbard are abolished. The requirements for carrying out a coastal cruise on Svalbard are abolished in principle, but there will still be restrictions regarding disembarkation on Svalbard and a requirement that the ship must return to its home port if suspected or confirmed infection on board. The temporary ban on international charter flights to Svalbard is continued.”

The measures are the first in a three-stage plan by Norway to achieve “normal everyday life with increased preparedness,” according to a statement by Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Monica Mæland.

“From this point on, all EEA citizens, including people from other countries resident in the EEA, can enter Norway. The same goes for people living in the UK and Switzerland,” the statement notes. “We also allow all foreigners living in so-called ‘purple’ countries to enter Norway. These are countries outside the EEA/Schengen that the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) considers may have somewhat milder restrictions.”

Practically speaking, that means New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Taiwan (the current purple countries) and others mentioned can enter and do not have to quarantine or undergo testing if they have been fully vaccinated or can prove they had been infected and recovered from the coronavirus within the last six months.

Also, youths under the age of 18 are exempt from entry quarantine. The entry quarantine can also be shortened for all travellers by a negative PCR test taken no earlier than three days after arrival. Furthermore, the requirement for quarantine hotels for the implementation of the quarantine is lifted.

Still required to quarantine are arrivals from Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, Croatia, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Romania and Austria, which are placed in the red category, as well as Lithuania, Slovenia and Great Britain which are placed in the dark red category.

In the Nordic regions, the entry quarantine has been lifted for Sweden’s regions of Blekinge, Dalarna, Gävleborg, Gotland (changed from red), Halland, Jämtland, Jönköping, Kalmar, Kronoberg, Södermanland, Uppsala, Värmland, Västerbotten, Västernorrland, Västmanland and Örebro. The obligation to quarantine has ended for arrivals from Denmark’s Faroe Islands, as well as the majority of Finnish regions.