Norway to close borders to nearly all non-residents over virus

Norway announced on Wednesday that it would close its borders to almost all non-residents in a bid to avoid highly transmissible new strains of the coronavirus spreading.

Norway to close borders to nearly all non-residents over virus
Oslo airport. AFP

“From midnight Thursday to Friday, Norway will introduce the strictestrules in this territory since March 12,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg told anews conference. “In practical terms, the border will be closed to all those who do not live in Norway.”

She added that a handful of exceptions would apply, including for health workers arriving from Sweden and Finland, and people transporting goods.

She added that a handful of exceptions would apply, including for health workers arriving from Sweden and Finland, and people transporting goods. Also exempt are energy and defence workers as well as foreign journalists.

The restriction applies however to foreign athletes as Norway prepares to host international ski trials in the next few weeks.

The Nordic nation, which is not a member of the European Union but is part of the passport-free Schengen zone, aims to re-evaluate the measure in two weeks.

The kingdom, which has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, said it aims to keep the health threat under control.

“We see that other countries have passed from low infection rates to an uncontrolled spread in the space of a few week,” Solberg said, citing Ireland.

The new curbs add to entry measures for the country that were already among the strictest in Europe. For example, it requires people to have a negative 

Covid test before entering the country, register with the local authorities and respect a quarantine.

At the weekend Norway imposed new restrictions in the Oslo area after an outbreak of the new, more contagious variant first detected in the UK.

That prompted both Sweden and Finland to effectively close their borders with Norway.

Despite the worrying outbreak of the new variant the rate of infections in Norway has been slowing of late.

READ ALSO: Norway's restrictions help flatten curve but variant concerns persist

As of Wednesday, Norway had recorded 51,594 cases of Covid-19 and 556 deaths, according to the data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH). But a new report published by the institute also gave grounds for cautious optimism.

The report shows that the number of new cases has been more than halved between the first and third week of the year, from 4,645 to 2,180. The institute warns, however, that the number of people tested also fell in the same period.

The share of people who tested positive for Covid-19 nevertheless declined from 2.5 percent to 1.1 percent.

The virus' reproductive number (R) is now also estimated to be 0.6, meaning that ten infected people on average pass the virus on to only six more people. In other words the spread of the virus is receding.

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SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of Danish SAS pilots have approved the agreement that ended strike action last month.

SAS pilots approve new collective agreement

93 percent of the Danish SAS pilots have voted yes to an agreement which ended strike action but also means, among other things, redeployments, longer working weeks and lower wages.

This was announced by Dansk Metal on Saturday morning. The pilots could have voted yes or no on the new collective agreement until midnight on Friday evening.

Pilots in Sweden and Norway have also approved the agreement.

Keld Bækkelund Hansen, head of negotiations at Dansk Metal, said “I am incredibly happy. It is a bit atypical to see that a collective agreement negotiation ends in agreements being made that reduce wages and conditions.”

“So of course it was exciting how our members viewed the new collective agreement. But they could also see that it was a necessity in relation to SAS’s situation,” he added.

The agreement comes after months of tug-of-war that finally saw SAS and the striking pilots reach a collective agreement on 19 July. It helped end a two-week strike.

Part of the background to the conflict between SAS and the pilots was that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, SAS dismissed around half of its pilots.

With the new collective agreement, however, all 450 dismissed pilots will be offered re-employment in the future.

At the same time, SAS pilots will see a 25 percent pay cut, and the limit for the workload is raised from 47 hours to 60 hours per week.

But even with strike action over and a collective agreement supported by pilots, the problems are far from over for SAS, which has suffered major financial losses during the conflict.

Currently, the airline plans to begin a reconstruction in the United States under bankruptcy protection in a so-called Chapter 11 process.

Bankruptcy protection will mean that SAS can continue to operate and pay wages while the process is ongoing.

SAS is seeking financing of up to $700 million- slightly more than DKK 5.1 billion.

SAS press manager Alexandra Lindgren Kaoukji said in a statement: “We are very happy and look forward to continuing our ongoing Chapter 11 process and our work to ensure a strong and sustainable airline for many years to come.The positive result of the vote will help SAS to attract long-term investors while we go through the Chapter 11 process and work further with the SAS Forward plan.”