Swedish town on Norway border pulls Gotland sign stunt

A sign company in Strömstad on Sweden's border with Norway has changed road signs across the town to read "Gotland" in a light-hearted protest at Norway's refusal to allow its citizens to come across the border to shop at its border stores.

Swedish town on Norway border pulls Gotland sign stunt
One of the swapped signs in Strömstad. Photo: Jenny Åslund
The island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea is currently the only region in Sweden to which Norwegians are allowed to travel for leisure purposes under the new rules for travel in the Nordics introduced last week. 
On Thursday morning signs popped up where the name Strömstad had been replaced with the name and anchor symbol of Gotland, while mock-ups of ordinary municipal road signs had also been changed to read “Gotland”. 
“Now the Norwegians who come can take a photo of themselves next to the sign and send it home as evidence,” Torbjörn Hallström, from the town's sign company Texthuset told Swedish state broadcaster SVT
He said his friends had come up with the idea, but it had been his company who enacted the stunt. 
“It was me and my son who did it,” he admitted. “When this thing with Gotland happened, a mate said 'you should get some signs up', but I thought I couldn't really do that. But then someone else came and said more or less the same thing, so this morning we just went and did it!” 
Strömstad's economy is heavily dependent on Norwegians driving  across the border to stock up on sweets, snus tobacco, alcohol, and other goods which are cheaper than in Norway. 
Kent Hansson, a country councillor told SVT that he thought the stunt was “fantastically funny”. 
“It's probably significantly safer for Norwegians to go to Strömstad than to go to Gotland. We've got hardly any Covid-19 here at all,” he said. 

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.