Norway is tightening border control but also loosening the rules for the country’s controversial “quarantine hotels.” Travelers from abroad won’t have to spend their first 10 days in one of the hotels if they can document that they’re able to stay in at least the equivalent of a residential unit with its own kitchen and toilet facilities.
Since early November, both Norwegian and foreign citizens have been ordered to check into quarantine hotels near the airports and border crossings if they’re not registered as living in Norway. Only those who own homes or holiday homes have been allowed to avoid the quarantine hotels, for which they must pay NOK 500 per night to cover a portion of their room and board.
Justice Minister Monica Mæland acknowledged at a press conference Wednesday that the hotel quarantine rules have been criticized as unfair, prompting the government to ease them a bit while still trying to control the spread of the Corona virus.
People arriving in Norway who rent a home here will now be able to spend their quarantine period there. Those who either own or rent their own home will also be able spend their quarantine in what Mæland called a “suitable” residence. That’s more than just a friend’s or family’s home with a guest room, she warned.
“The new rules demand that you must have accommodation that provides your own toilet, kitchen or eating area,” Mæland said. It’s not enough, she said, to just stay with a partner, friends or relatives unless the person who’s arrived in Norway can be isolated: “It must be possible to avoid close contact.”
People traveling together who also live together can spend their 10 days of quarantine in Norway together. Mæland said the new rules were being sent out to hearing Wednesday afternoon and will take effect as quickly as possible, at the latest this weekend.
It’s all aimed at keeping more infection out of Norway and will likely discourage people from traveling simply because of all the hassle involved. The rules will not be further relaxed during the Christmas and New Year holidays: “Those who spend the holidays with family abroad will have to go through quarantine when they return,” said Health Minister Bent Høie. “Those who come to Norway for the holiday, must go into quarantine. That can hinder a new wave of infection in the New Year.”
The government is also tightening border control by having police at all border crossings around the clock to question everyone arriving in Norway. All arriving travellers, including Norwegian citizens, will also have to register in advance through a new digital system due to be in place from January 1.
The government wants to strengthen its ability to register everyone arriving in Norway and follow up on their wherabouts later. Government minister Odd Emil Ingebrigtsen of the Conservative Party said people heading for Norway will need to register in advance and receive a code that must be shown upon entry. Registration will require information regarding the arriving person’s identity, contact information, quarantine location and employer if they work in Norway.
The goal is not only to improve infection tracking but also to gain control over foreigners arriving for the winter fishing season in Northern Norway. Large numbers of “guest workers” are expected through the winter and they’ll be among those required to register in advance. Local health authorities have been requesting such a registration system in the event of any virus outbreak.
“You can expect to be checked if you violate quarantine rules,” Mæland said, warning that spontaneous police controls can result in hefty fines if quarantine locations are not considered “suitable.”