News story | Date: 18/06/2021 | Ministry of Justice and Public Security
‘The Norwegian Government is now easing several infection control measures that apply to travel operations in Svalbard and cruises along the Norwegian coast. This includes an end to the requirement to present a negative result from a test for SARS-CoV-2 prior to departure to Svalbard for people who can document that they are protected and can present a COVID-19 certificate’, says Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.
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Cruises along the Norwegian coast and Svalbard will be permitted on certain conditions, and charter flights from the mainland may again land in Svalbard. All changes will enter into effect on Sunday 20 June at 12 pm.
‘It is important that Svalbard, too, can take part in the reopening of society. Svalbard has required special protective measures during the pandemic, partly due to capacity limitations in health emergency preparedness. The current outlook is good, and I am pleased that we can ease measures further,’ says Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland.
A rise in the number of travellers to Svalbard may involve a risk of outbreaks and resultant pressure on local health emergency preparedness, as well as on the Governor of Svalbard’s rescue service resources. Due to Svalbard’s geographic location, the transport time for intensive care patients is long, which means that any outbreak on Svalbard which requires evacuation of patients to the mainland would have serious consequences.
For this reason, we must keep some infection control measures for travellers to Svalbard with a view to reducing the risk of infection as much as possible. As a result, the reopening of Svalbard will have to be more gradual and controlled than on the mainland.
Tourism on Svalbard
The arrangement with dedicated guidance for land-based tourism in Svalbard will be removed and replaced by a duty for all businesses offering tourist activities to ensure that their operations comply with the infection control rules and in accordance with national guidance and the established industry standards, as on the mainland.
Places offering overnight accommodation in Svalbard can now increase their occupancy rate to 90 per cent, and the existing requirement for land-based tourism operators to draw up dedicated plans to be presented to the Governor of Svalbard will be lifted.
The remaining 10 per cent of the accommodation capacity will be reserved for overnight guests with a duty to quarantine or isolate. Hotels and places offering overnight accommodation must have plans for management of overnight guests who are in quarantine or in isolation.
The Norwegian Government no longer advises against unnecessary domestic travel, and is now permitting charter traffic from the mainland. The prohibition is being upheld for international charter traffic.
Cruises along the Norwegian coast and Svalbard
As stated earlier, the COVID-19 certificate may be used on cruises along the Norwegian coast in connection with Step 3 of the Norwegian Government’s reopening plan. If unprotected people board a ship with many passengers, this will increase the risk of an outbreak.
Last year, we learned that we need to be careful because handling outbreaks on ships can be difficult. Cruise ships will therefore be permitted a higher cap on numbers, provided that the people on board can document their protected status using a COVID-19 certificate.
Prior to starting the journey, a statement that the regulatory requirements have been met must be submitted to the Governor of Svalbard. If the passengers and crew are unprotected, a cap of 200 people will be introduced for cruises along the Norwegian coast and Svalbard, with testing required before departure.
Cruises along the Svalbard coast with up to 200 unprotected people must start and end in Svalbard. If the passengers and crew are protected, up to 2 000 persons will be allowed on board. Up to 90 per cent of capacity may be utilised. Cruises along the coast of Svalbard are also required to return to the mainland or their home port if any cases of SARS-CoV-2 are suspected or confirmed onboard the ship.
The prohibition against going ashore only applies to coastal cruises that start in countries subject to a duty to quarantine, or if people from countries subject to a duty to quarantine embark the cruise ship, or if the passengers or crew have gone ashore in areas subject to a duty to quarantine.
If there is any suspicion of COVID-19 when the coastal cruise ends, everyone must stay on board until the local authorities have decided how to handle the situation.