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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Friday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

Free trade agreement between Norway and the UK expected to be announced

A post-Brexit free trade agreement will be announced between the UK and Norway, state broadcaster NRK have reported. 

Negotiations between the two countries have been ongoing since last summer, and there had been a deadline of June 18th to agree on a deal. 

According to the broadcaster, the arrangement would see Norway have greater access to sell its seafood in the UK, while the UK would have better access to sell agricultural products like cheese. 

READ ALSO: Norway fails to agree fishing quota deal with United Kingdom 

We will have all the details covered in full when the agreement is announced. 

Hundreds evacuated and firefighters injured in forest fire 

Around 500 people have been evacuated, and several firefighters have received minor injuries fighting a large forest fire in Sotra, just west of Bergen. 

The fire broke out on Thursday morning, and firefighters at the scene said on Friday that the blaze was still not fully under control. 

Around 150 fire crews from ten fire stations were working to fight the flames. 

The fire has claimed at least two houses. A total of ten people have been treated for injuries 

Those that were evacuated have been moved to a campsite.

Government press conference

There will be a government press conference on the coronavirus situation this afternoon. 

Minister of Health Bent Høie and Minister of Justice Monica Mæland will be at the conference. Espen Nakstad and Line Vold, will also be in attendance.

We will cover all the details for you in an article later.

Quarantine hotels to continue until after the summer 

Quarantine hotels will likely remain in place until after the summer, according to the Health Director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, Bjørn Guldvog. 

“I think it is right that some will still need quarantine hotels over the summer. And maybe after that too, for travellers from certain areas,” he told Norwegian radio station P4

There have been a few significant changes to the quarantine hotel rules recently, with travellers from certain countries now being exempt from entering the hotels and those who have received their vaccine in Norway able to quarantine at home instead also

However, Guldvog believes the scheme will remain in place for the foreseeable future due to the risk of new variants. 

In the government’s revised budget for 2021, it was revealed that funding for the hotels would continue until November at least. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Norway’s revised budget means for you 

289 new Covid-19 infections

On Thursday, 289 coronavirus cases were registered in Norway, a decrease of 35 on the seven-day average. 

In Oslo, 93 cases of infection were recorded, 24 more than the seven-day average of 69. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 1.0. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another ten people, indicating that the infection level is stable.

Number of reported Covid cases. Source: NIPH

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BREXIT

How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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