From January 2nd 2021, the government has imposed mandatory testing for Covid-19 for all travellers to Norway. The test must be done as soon as possible and within 24 hours after arrival at the latest. Travellers must enter Norway through border stations with testing facilities or through border stations with police control. Several smaller border stations will be closed.
Test capacity at the borders will be increased and there will be restrictions when crossing the border.
Testing should be done at the airport or other border stations. If that is not possible, the traveller must contact the local municipality or another test station to arrange testing. Testing is free of charge.
– We are now concerned about import infection as well as new outbreaks with new mutated versions of the virus. In addition, we are concerned that many will return to Norway after Christmas from countries with an increased level of infection, says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
It is estimated that the British mutation increases infection with 55-70%. That corresponds to an increase in the reproduction number with 0,4.
– If this mutation is spread in Norway, it will most likely result in a full lockdown. We must do what we can to prevent this mutation to get a foothold in Norway. Testing is the only way to discover if travellers from red countries are carrying this virus, says Solberg.
Risk of overloading the intensive care capacity
If we assume that R for Norway is around 1, then the entry of the new mutation can lead to R increasing to 1,4. This will cause Norway's intensive care capacity to exceed its limits within 4-5 weeks. The test and infection tracing capacity in the municipalities will be exceeded prior to this.
–We must limit the spread of this virus mutation as much as possible. It is also highly likely that the mutation will enter Norway from other countries than Great Britain. The demand of mandatory testing is an addition to the other measures that we have implemented; mandatory negative test before arrival, registry upon arrival and a duty to quarantine, says Bent Høie, Minister for Health and Care Services.
There are some exceptions from mandatory testing. Children under the age of 12 do not need to be tested. Personnel with critical social functions, border commuters, long distance drivers and diplomats are others that are exempted
The basis for the requirement of mandatory testing for travellers from red countries is based on assessments from The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) and The Norwegian Directorate of Health (Helsedirektoratet).
FHI leans more towards testing recommendations rather than mandatory testing. Both FHI and The Norwegian Directorate of Health agree with the challenges in the situation and the new variations of the virus.
The measures will be assessed again in 4 weeks. A violation of the duty to test can be punished with fines.
As a main rule, testing shall be done at border stations. The test capacity at the border stations can be low at first. Therefore, testing must be done as soon as possible or within 24 hours after arrival at the latest.
– People who are offered testing at the border station must comply, says Monica Mæland, Minister of Justice and Public Security.
There will be an increase in personnel at testing stations and new stations will be established. There will also be a need to increase capacity at testing stations at Oslo Airport Gardermoen and at several of Norway's border stations controlling traffic by sea and by land.
There are about 110 approved border stations to Norway. They are all open, but several have reduced their operating hours, and several are without police control.
Border stations might be closed in order to channel travellers to border stations with both police and health care personnel or border stations with police control.
– I will decide which border stations to close and which groups can be exempted so that they can still use closed border stations, says Mæland.