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Friday, February 23, 2024

Corona spoils summer abroad

The Norwegian government announced Friday afternoon that it intends to maintain its foreign travel restrictions until August 20. That means thousands of Norwegians will likely need to cancel long-planned summer holidays abroad, if they haven’t already.

Norwegians usually flock in the summer to destinations with guaranteed warmth and sunshine like here on Crete, and many own holiday homes in Spain, the south of France and Italy. The Corona virus has now spoiled holiday travel abroad this year. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

So much for lazy days on a beach in Thailand, Crete og the Canary Islands: Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that despite “careful easing of anti-infection measures in several countries, it’s still difficult to travel, also in Europe.”

The foreign ministry is therefore maintaining its current restrictions on travel to and arrivals from abroad, along with its general 10-day quarantine requirement until August 20. That’s the earliest that travel outside the Nordic and European area will be re-evaluated.

She and her fellow government ministers noted that varying travel restrictions in and between countries, ever-changing Corona virus infection situations, quarantine rules, Corona containment measures, a lack of scheduled flights and massive uncertainty in other areas of the transport sector pose major challenges for Norwegians keen to travel. Even if flights are scheduled, noted Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, they can quickly be cancelled.

Søreide said many Norwegians are still stranded abroad and asking local embassies for help to get home. “New restrictions can still be imposed at any time in many countries,” Søreide said at the government’s press conference Friday afternoon. “That’s why the foreign ministry is maintaining the current travel advisories that warn against all travel that’s not absolutely necessary to other countries.”

Sweden still off-limits, too
Norwegians won’t even be able to cross over the border to Sweden until at least June 15, when travel restrictions among the Nordic countries may be eased. The government is asking the public health institute FHI to especially evaluate the infection situation in the other Nordic countries, to determine whether travel restrictions can be lifted. Søreide warned, however, that “traveling freely within the Nordic area will depend on the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) sharing our evaluation of the infection situation.”

An estimated 12,000 Norwegians own holiday homes in Sweden and have been clamouring for permission to visit them, if only to check on their properties and perform needed maintenance, but they’re still not allowed to stay overnight. “There still can’t be any hytte trips to Sweden before June 15 without having to sit in quarantine when you come home,” Solberg said. That rules out shopping trip to Sweden as well, until the restrictions are lifted.

She said she and her fellow Nordic leaders “are working towards a Nordic opening when all five countries can open up at the the same time, but we have to assess the situation closer to June 15.”

European re-evaluation due July 20
Solberg and Søreide also opened up for a re-evaluation of travel to other “nearby” European countries on July 20. “The first step will be to see whether we can make exceptions to the travel restrictions within the Nordic area by June 15,” Søreide said. “By July 20 we’ll evaluate whether we can also make exceptions for travel to other nearby countries in Europe.”

She didn’t specify which countries that may be, and again, any easing of restrictions will have to be made in cooperation with the other countries. Germany has already announced that it will open its borders to travelers from several countries including Norway by June 15, while Greece wants to start welcoming tourists from July 1. Health director Espen Nakstad stressed, however, that Norwegians will still need to follow the Norwegian government’s restrictions even if Germany and Greece are ready to receive them. Otherwise they face large bills if travel is disrupted or they’re stranded abroad, because travel insurance won’t cover their extra expenses.

Nakstad also stressed on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Friday that the Corona virus remains “a serious illness,” that infection rates remain high in many European countries and that the health care situation remains “dramatic, perhaps with the exception of Norway and Iceland.”

Justice Minister Monica Mæland announced that business travel, meanwhile, may be allowed from June 1 within the Nordic area without having to undergo quarantine upon arrival back in Norway. Norwegians can also travel from June 1 to Svalbard, which has remained free of Corona infection, but tourist numbers will be limited and cruising around Svalbard remains under evaluation. Berglund



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