Norway tightens its borders
Border closed to all non-residents with few exceptions for essential workers
Norway announced on Jan. 17 that it would close its borders to almost all non-residents in an effort to prevent highly transmissible new strains of the coronavirus spreading into the country.
“From midnight Jan. 28 to Jan. 29, Norway will introduce the strictest rules in this area since March 12,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference. “In practical terms, the border will be closed to all those who do not live in Norway,” she said.
She added that a handful of exceptions would apply, including provisions for health workers arriving from Sweden and Finland, and people transporting goods. Also exempt are energy and defense workers, as well as foreign journalists.
The restrictions apply, however, to foreign athletes, just as Norway prepared to host international skiing qualifying competitions.
Noway, which is not a member of the European Union but is part of the passport-free Schengen zone, has plans to reevaluate the measures after an initial period.
With one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, Norway aims to keep the health threat under control.
“We see that other countries have gone from low infection rates to an uncontrolled spread within the space of a few weeks,” Solberg said, citing Ireland.
The new restrictions are being added to entry measures that were already among the strictest in Europe. For example, Norway requires those entering the country to have a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival, and they must register with the local authorities and respect a 14-day quarantine.
Moreover, Norway imposed new restrictions in the Oslo area after an outbreak of the new, more contagious variant first detected in the United Kingdom
That prompted both Sweden and Finland to effectively close their borders with Norway.
Despite the worrying outbreak of the new variant the rate of infections in Norway has been slowing of late.
As of Jan. 27, Norway had recorded 51,594 cases of COVID-19 and 556 deaths, according to the data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). But a new report published by the institute also gave grounds for cautious optimism.
The report showed that the number of new cases had been more than halved between the first and third week of the year, from 4,645 to 2,180. The institute warned, however, that the number of people tested also fell in the same period.
The share of people who tested positive for COVID-19 nevertheless declined from 2.5% to 1.1%.
The virus’ reproductive number is now also estimated to be 0.6, meaning that 10 infected people on average pass the virus on to only six more people. In other words, the spread of the virus is receding.
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 12, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.