New quarantine rules will contribute to more travellers being tested

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The Norwegian Government is introducing new quarantine rules to contribute to more people being tested and to improve compliance with the quarantine rules. Travellers arriving in Norway from abroad may, at the earliest, end quarantine on day seven if they test negative for Covid-19 twice after arrival. The first test must be taken within three days of arrival, and the second, at the earliest, seven days after arrival.

Being tested is voluntary and free of charge. If you are not tested or there is insufficient capacity to be tested, you must remain in entry quarantine for ten days.

The new arrangement does not apply to travellers who have been in the United Kingdom during the last 14 days prior to arrival. Testing is mandatory for such persons; however, the duration of their entry quarantine will not be reduced.

The option of being tested in order to end quarantine early only applies if the person is tested in accordance with the requirements in the Covid-19 Regulations.

The option of reducing the duration of entry quarantine is not an individual right and is contingent on the testing capacity of the municipality in which you are staying or private parties, or that your employer provides the testing. E.g., this means that persons who have been tested after arrival, and who wish to take the second test, cannot demand this of the municipality. Furthermore, if the second test is not taken, the person must remain in entry quarantine for ten days.

“We are implementing this alternative, among other things, to improve the overview and control of infection among travellers”, says Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie.

This arrangement is effective as of 29 December at 08:00. Travellers who arrived in Norway less than ten days ago and who were tested upon arrival or within three days of arrival, may also utilise this arrangement by being tested, at the earliest, on day seven, or later.

The Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) have assessed this proposal and believe the introduction thereof is sound from an infection control standpoint.

Testing as many as possible

The infection situation in other European countries is unstable and in many cases far worse than the situation in Norway. Several mutated versions of the coronavirus have been discovered. The more infectious mutation from the United Kingdom has been found in several countries, now also in Norway.

“It is important to delay the spread of the more infectious variants of the virus to Norway for as long as possible. Therefore, we must do all we can to test as many travellers arriving in the country as possible, without this negatively affecting other important testing efforts relating to contact tracing and infection quarantine”, Høie notes.

Between 50,000 – 100,000 travellers arrive a week. If all travellers select the new arrangement of two tests after arrival, this may require a testing capacity of 100,000 – 200,000 tests a week. Therefore, it is important that the testing model for reduced entry quarantine is contingent on the sufficient testing capacity of the municipalities and laboratories.

Mandatory testing at all of the 260 border crossing points in Norway would require an estimated 4200 full-time equivalents if the tests were to be performed using rapid testing. Currently, this is not possible. The challenges involving testing capacity mean that the Norwegian Directorate of Health currently does not recommend solutions involving mandatory testing.

The new solution that is being established in conjunction with the new digital travel registration, which will be available in early January, may entail that such testing will become mandatory. If testing becomes mandatory, it will not necessarily have to occur at the border but may be performed within 72 hours. Digital entry registration will make it easier to check that travellers are being tested.

Exemptions for drivers

The Covid-19 Regulations are also being amended so that long-haul transport drivers and railway personnel who are not working on freight trains, may be exempt from entry quarantine during working hours even if they have stayed in the United Kingdom in the last 14 days prior to arriving in Norway. However, they must quarantine during leisure time.

“The Norwegian Institute of Public Health considers it unlikely that long-haul transport drivers are significantly contributing to the spread of infection in Norway. This occupational group contributes to ensuring the free flow of goods. Therefore, we believe it is appropriate to make exceptions for such persons”, says Høie.