Svalbard - a dramatic archipelago of snow-dusted peaks and vast fields of ice – is a majestic wilderness with a unique draw. It has been visited and marvelled at by people from all over the world and is famous for having the northernmost permanently inhabited town on earth. Having closed its borders amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the archipelago is now planning to open from 1 June onwards to Norwegians from the mainland.
According to an official press release, the government is putting plans in place to ensure that opening up to tourists from mainland Norway can be done thoughtfully and safely. “The community in Longyearbyen has been significantly affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic. It is appropriate that we enable the travel and leisure industry in Svalbard to resume activity at the same time as official recommendations for leisure travel on the mainland are revised,” Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland said.
Svalbard has not been visited by any tourists since the quarantine has been established, but with many European countries looking at easing restrictions, it looks as if that is about to change from next month on.
Located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole, the level of emergency medical responsiveness and the potentially long evacuation routes to the mainland where intensive care or hospital treatment would be needed has been a key focus of the debate to determine a framework for the gradual reintroduction of tourism. “We will consider measures to limit the total number of tourists visiting Svalbard at any given time. This is essential in regards to the available level of emergency responsiveness in Svalbard. Further, it is a prerequisite in order for the travel and leisure industry to be able to operate in a manner which prevents spreading infection,” Monica Mæland said.
People arriving on the Norwegian mainland from abroad will continue to be subject to current quarantine regulations before they will be able to travel to Svalbard.