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Norway’s Covid-19 travel rules: Switzerland amongst next group of likely ‘red’ countries

Increasing coronavirus infections in Switzerland, Poland and the Czech Republic are likely to result in Norway applying travel restrictions to the countries this week.

Norway’s Covid-19 travel rules: Switzerland amongst next group of likely 'red' countries
The Jet d'Eau fountain in Geneva. Photo: AFP

The move was signalled on Monday by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), which published similar notifications in July before restrictions were applied to travellers from Spain and Belgium.

Norway's health authorities designated EEA and Schengen countries as ‘green' or ‘red’ depending on current infection rates. To remain ‘green’, the figure must be under 20 infections per 100,000 residents in total over the past two weeks.

Once a country is ‘red', the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against travel that is not strictly necessary to that country, and self-quarantine is required for travellers returning or arriving from it. This also means people cannot travel from 'red' countries to Norway for tourism.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: MAP: Which countries are open for tourism to and from Norway?

NIPH said on Monday that it would recommend travel advisories for Switzerland and the Czech Republic to be changed to ‘red’ at the next update scheduled for later this week, unless any change in the situation occurs in the meantime. Poland should also be “assessed”, according to the NIPH statement.

The final decision on travel advice is taken by the government based on NIPH assessments.

Switzerland and the Czech Republic have both exceeded the 20 per 100,000 resident infections threshold, resulting in  the Norwegian public health authority's forthcoming recommendation.

 

Poland is reporting an ongoing increase and infections and is currently at 17.9 per 100,000 residents.

The figures come from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the EU agency monitoring the data.

“New figures show that Switzerland is at 22.9 and Czech Republic 26.8 new Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents for the last 14 days, and the trend is increasing. We are therefore now notifying that, unless the situation changes, NIPH will recommend that Switzerland and Czech Republic become ‘red’ countries and thereby encompassed by quarantine rules,” NIPH head of department Line Vold said in the statement.

Updated quarantine rules and travel advice normally comes into effect at midnight on Friday.

“We also stress the general travel advice: everyone should think carefully about whether they should travel. All travel can increase the risk of coronavirus infection and the situation at your destination can change quickly,” Vold said.

“Everyone who travels should therefore make themselves aware of the local situation. People in risk groups should think particularly carefully about whether to travel,” the director continued.

Arrivals in Norway from Switzerland, the Czech Republic or Poland before the countries ‘turn red’ will not be subject to the quarantine rule but are asked to be particularly alert for symptoms of Covid-19, get a test if necessary and maintain a social distance of at least one metre.

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TRAVEL

Could Oslo-Copenhagen overnight train be set for return?

A direct overnight rail service between the Norwegian and Danish capitals has not operated since 2001, but authorities in Oslo are considering its return.

Norway’s transport minister Knut Arild Hareide has asked the country’s railway authority Jernbanedirektoratet to investigate the options for opening a night rail connection between Oslo and Copenhagen.

An answer is expected by November 1st, after which the Norwegian government will decide whether to go forward with the proposal to directly link the two Nordic capitals by rail.

Jernbanedirektoratet is expected to assess a timeline for introducing the service along with costs, market and potential conflicts with other commercial services covering the route.

“I hope we’ll secure a deal. Cross-border trains are exciting, including taking a train to Malmö, Copenhagen and onwards to Europe,” Hareide told Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The minister said he envisaged either a state-funded project or a competition awarding a contract for the route’s operation to the best bidder.

A future Oslo-Copenhagen night train rests on the forthcoming Jernbanedirektoratet report and its chances of becoming a reality are therefore unclear. But the Norwegian rail authority earlier this year published a separate report on ways in which passenger train service options from Norway to Denmark via Sweden can be improved.

“We see an increasing interest in travelling out of Norway by train,” Jernbanedirektoratet project manager  Hanne Juul said in a statement when the report was published in January.

“A customer study confirmed this impression and we therefore wish to make it simpler to take the train to destinations abroad,” Juul added.

Participants in the study said that lower prices, fewer connections and better information were among the factors that would encourage them to choose the train for a journey abroad.

Norway’s rail authority also concluded that better international cooperation would optimise cross-border rail journeys, for example by making journey and departure times fit together more efficiently.

The Femahrn connection between Denmark and Germany, currently under construction, was cited as a factor which could also boost the potential for an overland rail connection from Norway to mainland Europe.

Night trains connected Oslo to Europe via Copenhagen with several departures daily as recently as the late 1990s, but the last such night train between the two cities ran in 2001 amid dwindling demand.

That trend has begun to reverse in recent years due in part to an increasing desire among travellers to select a greener option for their journey than flying.

Earlier this summer, a new overnight train from Stockholm to Berlin began operating. That service can be boarded by Danish passengers at Høje Taastrup near Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about the new night train from Copenhagen to Germany

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