Norway keeps its borders closed

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The Norwegian government is once again following health authorities’ advice and keeping its borders closed through the end of February. Dr Bjørn Guldvog, head of the state health directorate, stressed, however, that Norway is in a good position and normality can return by the end of July.

State police and civil defense personnel are enforcing border closures at all main broder crossings, like here between Northern Norway and Finland. PHOTO: Forsvaret/Joakim Salmelid

“In 100 to 150 days everything will be different,” Guldvog told Norwegian Broadcaster (NRK) after another government press conference Wednesday afternoon. “It’s probable that we’ll emerge from all this by the end of summer or even before summer.”

Justice Minister Monica Mæland had to break the news of ongoing entry restrictions into Norway for everyone who doesn’t live in the country. “We must strive for control (over the Corona virus) and limit infection as much as possible,” Mæland said.

She acknowledged how the border closing has “enormous consequences” on Norwegian businesses that rely on foreign workers and on many families and individuals. “At the same time we’re in a situation where the pandemic has taken a new direction with mutations that infect more people and faster,” Mæland said.

That means it’s too early to re-open borders that closed on January 29. The rules announced then by Prime Minister Erna Solberg will thus remain in force through February 28. Sweden has also closed its borders to Norwegians during the same time frame and longer.

Sharper quarantine rules, too
There will be some exceptions for people determined to be “critically important” to some businesses, with expertise that can’t be replaced. The government is simultaneously sharpening quarantine requirements, meaning employers with foreign workers allowed into Norway will need to receive approval in advance of worker housing before it can be put into use.

The state health directorate believes entry restriction must be maintained until better border control and quarantine regimes are in place. A need for entry restrictions will probably continue while Norway’s vaccination program is underway.

Health Minister noted that Norway’s infection rate has declined during the past three weeks but that decline has now flattened out. That may be tied to recent outbeaks of the new virus strains, given 436 confirmed cases of the British strain at present and 10 cases of the South African strain.

Foreign travel may be forbidden entirely
The government’s strategy now is to crack down quickly on local outbreaks, maintain control on a national level through ongoing Corona containment measures and maintain strict border control.

The health directorate reported Wednesday that it may also be necessary to forbid Norwegians from traveling abroad, as opposed to merely issuing travel advisories against it. “The infection risk is tied to the total number of people who travel in and out of the country,” the directorate stated.

Høie stressed that no Norwegians should travel abroad during the schools’ upcoming winter holiday weeks at the end of February and early March. “Traveling abroad during winter holiday would be in violation of our travel advisory,” Høie said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund