Some borders open, others close again

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Norwegians can once again travel into some areas of Sweden, but Spain was put back off limits when the government and state health authorities unveiled their latest Corona-related border regulations on Friday. Anyone arriving in Norway from Spain after midnight will be ordered into 10 days of quarantine.

It’s now possible to drive across Sweden through regions that no longer have infection rates high enough to demand quarantine upon return to Norway. Boating along Sweden’s west coast and driving over the border north of Gothenburg, however, will still trigger quarantine. Enforcement of the regulations, however, can be difficult and remains largely based on voluntary compliance. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

While rising Corona infection rates in some areas of Spain moved both it and Andorra back from “green” to “red” on Norwegian health authorities’ map, four new regions of neighbouring Sweden went from “red” to “green.” They include Värmland (which borders Norway in the southeast) and the adjoining regions of Örebro, Östergotland and Kalmar.

Together they cut a swathe across southern Sweden that now make it possible to drive across the country again, from Norway to the Baltic coast, and south to the Swedish regions of Kronoberg, Blekinge and Skåne, which in turn is just over the bridge from Denmark that’s also been open for the past few weeks.

The Swedish coastal region directly south of Oslo that’s most popular with Norwegian shoppers and vacationers, however, remains closed. That disappointed many who also enjoy boating along the coast of Bohuslän, and the thousands of Norwegian who own holiday homes in the area.

‘Overall evaluation’
Health authorities warned that infection rates in Sweden remain much higher than in Norway, where only three people are currently being treated in hospital. Some of the regions now re-opened have also exceeded the allowed rate of 20 cases of infection per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks. Travel restrictions were nonetheless eased after what the authorities and government leaders called “an overall evaluation.”

“We have seen a strong trend towards declining infection rates over the past two weeks,” Dr Are Stuwitz Berg of the public health institute FHI said at a press conference Friday afternoon. “These regions will fall under the 20 cases next week if the trend continues.”

FHI also redefined Hungary as a “green” country, making it possible for Norwegians to travel there and residents of Hungary to travel to Norway without having to undergo quarantine. Berg and others warned, however, that countries can quickly return to “red” status, subjecting those returning from them to go into quarantine, just like those now returning from Spain. France and Belgium have also tightened regulations after a rise in infection rates, as has Germany, but they all remained green on Friday.

Family tests positive after trip to Spain
“We know that this is disappointing for Norwegians who have holiday homes in Spain and for others who spend their holidays there,” said Agriculture Minister Olaug Bollestad, who represented the government at Friday’s press conference, “but these criteria are set in order to hinder infection in Norway.”

NRK reported earlier on Friday that a family of four from Trondheim was confirmed this week as being infected by the Corona virus while on holiday in Spain. That boosted concerns that travelers can still bring the virus back to Norway with them.

“This is to be expected when travel abroad has been allowed again,” Dr Tove Røsstad, chief medical officer for Trondheim, told NRK. She said she wasn’t surprised, and stressed that the family was quickly tested upon arrival and wasn’t seriously ill. They unfortunately had managed to meet other people before they were confirmed with the virus, though, so now several others in Trondheim are in quarantine as well. Local officials were working to track down all others with whom the family came in contact.

Newspaper Aftenposten editorialized this week that even travel that’s allowed “can be stupid,” noting how lots of Norwegians were hurrying home from Spain this week to beat Friday’s midnight quarantine deadline that had been expected. Others who have traveled on holiday in Europe have also admitted that they spent most of their time worrying about infection rates and changes in quarantine rules, while also facing lots of strict rules including required use of face masks. The masks remain optional in Norway, but that’s also under “constant evaluation” according to FHI.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund