Stage 3 of the Norwegian plan to lead the country back to normal life will come on Sunday, as the Norwegian government has announced in a press release. This first press release includes steps for the country back towards normal life and economy.
Two Oslo press releases
There is a second official press release, which is important for Spitsbergen tourism, including ship-based travelling. So far, a ban is in force that makes cruising over several days largely impossible. This will change on Sunday (20 June), but this comes with quite a bit of small print and the general development of the corona pandemic will continue to govern life in general and tourism in particular. This leaves a number of questionmarks, but the possibility of some Spitsbergen trips later this season is, at least, not completely unrealistic.
Norway makes steps to normal life and re-opens the possibility for cruises. It remains to be seen if “Spitsbergen under sail” will be possible in 2021.
General restrictions on international travelling remain in force
For international tourists, it is important to notice that the strict entry restrictions remain in force until further notice. Non-Norwegian tourists may enter the country only if they come from “yellow countries” on the FHI-map. Currently, most of Europe is red, and who can tell what the summer will bring considering the delta mutant of the corona virus that is connected to increasing infection figures in the UK? It is uncertain when Norway will permit at least fully vaccinated tourists from “red countries” to enter Norway again.
Currently, Norway only accepts vaccinations registered in Norway. This includes obviously vaccinations given in Norway; vaccinations given in other countries can, as of now, only be registered in Norway by persons who are registered in the country with a personal number (“fødselsnummer” or “D-nummer”). The digital European vaccination certificate may (or may not) facilitate this also for others, but that remains to be seen – as so much these days.
It is, however, clear that Norway will only accept vaccinations that are licensed by EMA (European Medicines Agency) for use in Europe. Other vaccinations such as Sputnik-V or Sinovac will currently not give travellers any advantages (other than the actual protection against infection and disease, of course!).
No testing requirement before flight to Longyearbyen for vaccinated travellers
Fully vaccinated / recovered travellers (“fully protected”) travellers do not need to test anymore before flying from mainland Norway to Longyearbyen. That is good news for the local tourism industry, where many hope that Norwegians will spend their summer holidays in Spitsbergen, where 83,5 % of the adult population (18 and older) are now vaccinated. But testing requirements for international travellers upon entering the country is another thing.
New rules for Spitsbergen-tourism
The following rules will apply from Sunday for tourism and cruising in Spitsbergen:
Tour operators will need to operate according to safe hygiene standards according to the same rules as on the mainland (no special rules anymore).
Hotels may use up to 90 % of their capacity and keep the remaining 10 % to accommodate travellers who need to quarantine.
Charter flights from Norway to Longyearbyen are allowed again, but not from other countries.
Ships that operate in Spitsbergen need to provide a disease protection plan that is accepted by the Sysselmann. Ships will not be able to use their full capacity, but 90 % or less depending on the protection status of all people on board.
If there are people on board who are not fully immunised, then the number of people on board is limited to 200 and there is a requirement to do tests before departure. This is valid for Norway and for Spitsbergen.
If everybody on board is fully immunised, then there may be up to 2000 people on board (yes, two thousand!). But in any case, only up to 90 % of the capacity may be used, or less, depending on the individual case.
In case of a corona infection or a suspicion, ships need to return to the mainland or their home port, rather than to Longyearbyen where health service capacities are very limited.
In case of a corona infection or a suspicion, everybody needs to stay on board until permission to leave the ship is given by relevant authorities.
Cruise ships with an international itinerary need to comply to the requirements to quarantine according to the FHI-map as soon as there is anyone on board who needs to quarantine.
So there is now finally information for tourism and ship-based travelling in Spitsbergen, something we have been waiting for for quite a while now as the season would normally have started weeks ago already. Many ship owners and tour operators have cancelled their arctic summer season already a while ago. For those who still have trips in their schedules, it remains to be seen what will actually be possible.
A lot will obviously depend on the development of the pandemic. If you want to travel to Norway including Spitsbergen, then you’d better come from a “yellow” country and make sure it remains yellow until you have left.