Stricter measures to reduce import infection

Norway has one of the strictest systems for entry and testing in Europe. The Norwegian Government is now further tightening the control system to limit import infection.

“Norway has one of the strictest systems for entry and testing in Europe, but we want to further improve and simplify it. The goal is for all travellers to be tested at the border and the Norwegian Directorate of Health will now request all municipalities with points of entry to Norway to significantly enhance their testing capacity. We will also implement systems that will make it easier to follow-up persons arriving in Norway”, says Minister of Health and Care Services, Bent Høie.

Once testing capacity has been enhanced, the Norwegian Government will consider removing the option of being tested within 24 hours of arrival in their municipality. This will entail a requirement for all travellers to be tested at the border.

Establishment of a new national call centre

It may be challenging for municipalities to follow-up entry registration and monitor whether travellers have been tested and undergone quarantine. In order to assist the municipalities, the Norwegian Directorate of Health has been tasked with establishing a national call centre that will follow up travellers. Employees at the centre shall be able to communicate in multiple languages, since some travellers do not speak the Scandinavian languages or English. Considering the estimate of approximately 8000 calls a day, approximately 160 employees will be required to staff the call centre. The Norwegian Directorate of Health will commence hiring as soon as possible. In total, the centre will cost approximately NOK 8.5 million a week.

“This will make it easier for the municipalities to monitor whether travellers have been tested and undergone quarantine. Therefore, this will ease the burden on the municipalities and help us reduce import infection, as well as prevent the spread of mutated viruses”, says Minister of Justice and Public Security, Monica Mæland.

All testing expenses will be covered for the municipalities

In 2020, 20 testing stations were established at the border. In 2021, NOK 650 million has been allocated for this purpose, including testing at quarantine hotels. The Norwegian Government will continue to cover all of the municipalities’ expenses for testing, so that the wait time for travellers can be kept under one hour. This applies to both the municipalities’ expenses for investment and operating expenses.

“The municipalities have been allocated approximately NOK 320 million to conduct monitoring activities. I encourage all of the municipalities to conduct spot checks to verify whether or not travellers have actually been tested for coronavirus. Those who do not submit to testing within 24 hours risk hefty fines. Fines of up to NOK 20,000 are common for breaches of the regulations”, says Mæland.

Foreign nationals with false certificates of a negative Covid-19 test will not only be expelled but also fined.

Simplification of entry registration

The experience to date is that not all persons arriving at the border have filled out the documentation for entry. There are also many people using the paper form instead of electronic entry registration. Incomplete contact information may further complicate contact tracing. The Norwegian Directorate of Health is now considering how registration can be completed electronically for all travellers.

“We want to transition away from the paper form. We are working to improve the digital solution so that it will become impossible to proceed in the form without providing complete information. This will improve the efficiency of the municipalities’ work with contact tracing and make it easier to follow up whether travellers are actually submitting to mandatory testing”, says Høie.

About the current system

To improve infection control, persons arriving in Norway from red countries are subject to strict requirements. Travellers are required to be tested at the border crossing or no later than 24 hours after arrival. There is a requirement of a negative coronavirus test taken during the last 72 hours prior to arrival and travellers are required to register their name and contact information so that they can be followed up in the municipality in which they are staying.  All persons travelling to Norway are also required to quarantine. Some groups are exempt from these rules, such as socially critical personnel and children under 12 years of age.