Norway extends ban on incoming flights from UK until after Christmas

Norway has extended a ban on all direct passenger flights from the United Kingdom to Norway due to the discovery of a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19.

Norway extends ban on incoming flights from UK until after Christmas
People at Heathrow Airport on December 21st. Photo: AFP

The ban, announced Monday, was effective for an initial two days but will now stay in place until December 26th.

Norway’s health ministry has not ruled out extending the ban until January, broadcaster NRK reports.

Flights from the UK have been banned due to the discovery of a faster-spreading variant of Covid-19, particularly in London and other parts of southeastern England.

The new variant of the coronavirus is believed to have first appeared in London and Kent and is reported to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains. Based on what scientists know so far, the variant does not appear to cause more serious illness than other kinds of coronavirus.

“We want more time to gain knowledge about the virus variant and prevent transmission in Norway. If this variant of the virus is not present in (Norway), there will be huge health-related benefits to shutting it out,” health minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The European Commission has recommended countries lift the blanket transport ban on the UK to allow residents to return home and for essential travel, but individual countries will decide whether to follow the recommendation.

In Norway, which is not an EU member state, the Ministry of Health (Helsedepartementet) will determine whether to extend the current flight ban until January 2nd.

READ ALSO: These are Norway's new rules for recent arrivals from the UK

The ministry is currently working on a registration system for all travellers arriving in the country, which will work alongside current rules relating to negative Covid-19 test requirements and quarantine.

Recent arrivals in Norway are to be contacted by authorities and asked to follow new guidance, Høie previously confirmed.

The following rules will apply to all travellers from the UK to Norway until January 10th:

  • A PCR Covid-19 test must be taken within 1 day after arrival in Norway and again 7 days after arrival from the UK
  • A PCR Covid-19 test must be taken as soon as possible by anyone who travelled from the UK to Norway within the last 14 days
  • Registration with authorities required on arrival
  • Registration required with local municipality at destination in Norway
  • Current exemptions from arrival quarantine do not apply to travellers from the UK, though some exemptions may further apply to this

In addition to the above, Norway's general quarantine rules still apply.


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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