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Oslo Airport sees uptick in arrivals ahead of new Covid-19 quarantine rules

Oslo's Gardermoen airport, the largest in Norway, has seen passengers move their trips forward to avoid incoming tightening of Covid-19 entry quarantine rules.

Oslo Airport sees uptick in arrivals ahead of new Covid-19 quarantine rules
AFP PHOTO / Hakon Mosvold Larsen (Photo by Hakon Mosvold Larsen / SCANPIX NORWAY / AFP)

The municipal director who is responsible for the quarantine hotels in Ullensaker, where the airport is located, confirmed the trend to newspaper VG.

“We had a relatively tough weekend, because we believe that those who have become aware that they would be put into quarantine hotels have now arrived much earlier, at the beginning of the Easter holidays,” municipal director Gunhild Grimstad-Kirkeby told VG.

New quarantine hotel rules come into effect from Monday, meaning that anybody arriving in Norway on trips that aren’t considered necessary foreign travel will have to check into quarantine hotels. The rules will tighten further on April 1st.

The earliest opportunity to leave the quarantine hotel would be 7 days after arriving and only if you return a negative test. Previously, Norwegian citizens and residents were allowed to quarantine at home.

The latest government information on rules relating to coronavirus quarantine hotels can be found in English here.

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Ullensaker has opened an additional quarantine hotel to help it cope with demand. Grimstad-Kirkeby estimated that there are 1,000-2,000 people currently in quarantine hotels around Oslo Airport Gardermoen.

“It was high pressure on Friday, a little less on Saturday and a little less on Sunday. If I am to assume based on the forecasts I have received there will be a decline in arrivals on Monday (when the new rules come into place),” she said.

Travelers at the hotels must pay a 500 kroner per-day subsidy for adults and 250 kroner per-day subsidy for children aged between 10-18.

On April 1st those arriving in Norway must also provide a negative PCR test that has been taken within 24 hours of their departure flight. Once in Norway, they must take a rapid coronavirus test at the airport or border and wait at the test station until the result is returned. If they are travelling for non-essential reasons, they will be required to quarantine regardless of test results.

Foreign nationals who are unable to meet the requirements will be denied entry and Norwegian citizens and residents will receive fines, Justice Minister, Monica Mæland, told VG. Mæland also said there has been a slight increase in travel activity this Easter.

“We meet this (increased travel) with stricter rules. Some disagree and some still travel, we must have a system in place to ensure that we do not get increased infection rates after Easter,” she said.

“The police will decide the size of the fine in each individual case, and there can be imprisonment for up to six months. We have seen examples of some quite hefty fines already. We will do everything we can to prevent import infection,” she said in regard to the potential punishments for those who break the new rules.

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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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