The Norwegian government has revised its covid-19 travel restrictions, allowing people from many European (EU/EEA/Schengen) countries including the U.K. to visit Norway with no quarantine requirements from July 15.
However, residents of Portugal, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria and Luxembourg remain excluded due to the high rate of infection in those countries. With the exception of residents of Kronoberg, Skåne and Blekinge, Sweden also remains excluded.
A boost for tourism
Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø said the move was “good news” for Norway’s tourism industry: “Tourism companies across the country can now receive guests from a number of countries in Europe again. The opening will provide greater income to the companies and get more people back to work.”
The news also means that Norwegians will be able to take summer vacations in Mediterranean hotspots such as France, Spain, Italy and Greece without having to undergo home quarantine on their return to Norway.
The long-awaited detailed announcement
The announcement was not a surprise as the July 15 date had been announced several weeks ago. However, the specific countries included in the border reopening were to be released later due to the risk of changes in the infection rate.
At the time, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) issued clear guidance on which European countries may be excluded from the quarantine-free reopening. Any country with more than 20 new cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks, more than 0.5 per 100,000 admissions to intensive care, or more than 5% of coronavirus tests resulting in a positive result would be excluded.
While the restrictions will be lifted from July 15, assessments will continue every 14 days. This means anyone booking a trip faces an element of uncertainty should the infection rate increase in their country.
Border remains closed to most non-EU/EEA/Schengen residents
Tourists from non-EU/EEA/Schengen countries remain unable to visit Norway, although there is an exemption for business travel and students.
People from any country who hold a work or residence permit in Norway can enter the country although they will be subject to a 10-day period of home quarantine. The same rules apply for students set to begin a course in the 2020/21 academic year and workers with an employment contract. There are also some exemptions for EU/EEA citizens wishing to visit close family member in Norway.
FHI confirmed that they may consider adding other countries to the border opening towards the end of July, but gave no other information. However, it’s notable that Justice Minister Monica Mæland highlighted the ongoing high rate of infection in the U.S. during the press conference.
Norway slow to reopen borders
Norway lifted internal restrictions earlier than many of its neighbors. Some schools were able to reopen as early as early April, just six weeks after the restrictions were first introduced.
Despite this, the government was keen to emphasize that not everything was back to normal. “The fact that we are lifting restrictions may give the impression that the pandemic is dying down. It is not. It is the way we are dealing with it that is changing,” said Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie in early May.
One area of focus has been the border, which remains essentially closed to most people aside from a few Nordic countries, with the notable exception of Sweden. With confirmed cases and deaths in Sweden and the U.K. continuing to climb, it’s perhaps not such a surprise that the government chose to restrict tourism for so long.