Norway tightens travel rules to limit import of Omicron Covid-19 variant

The Norwegian government has introduced new border rules, including a quarantine hotel stay for travellers arriving from parts of Africa, to try and limit the import of the recently discovered Omicron Covid variant.

Pictured is a plane at an airport.
The Norwegian government have introduced new rules to try and limit the import of the Omicron variant into the country. Pictured is a plane on the runway. Photo by Bao Menglong on Unsplash

New Covid testing and quarantine rules were introduced on Saturday to try and prevent the import of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, recently discovered and sequenced in South Africa, into Norway.

Norway is among a slew of countries in Europe that have enforced more rigid travel rules on countries in southern Africa to try and contain the import of the new variant, which experts fear vaccines may be less effective against due to a large number of mutations.

Everyone who arrives in Norway from, or after having stayed in, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) and Malawi will need to test for Covid-19 before travelling to Norway.

In addition, they will need to enter a quarantine hotel and isolate for up to ten days.

Arrivals can move from a quarantine hotel to their own home or another suitable quarantine location after taking a PCR test after day three.

After seven days, travellers will need to take another test. If this test comes back negative, they will be released from quarantine. Quarantine hotels in Norway cost 500 kroner a night for adults and 250 kroner for children aged between 10 and 17.

READ ALSO: EU health agency says Omicron variant poses ‘high to very high’ risk to Europe 

Those who have been in any of those countries after November 16th but arrived in Norway before November 27th will also need to get a PCR test if their most recent test was taken before the 27th.

Direct flights from these countries will also be banned. Diplomats and children under 18 travelling on their own are exempt from the new rules. In these instances, the current rules for non-EEA arrivals will apply.

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SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

More than 3,700 flights where cancelled and 380,000 passengers where affected by the 15-day strike which hit Scandinavia's SAS airline last month, the company has revealed.

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

“We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected by the July strike,” Anko van der Werff, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We are happy operations returned to normality again allowing us to start regaining our customers’ trust.”

According to the release, 1.3 million passengers travelled with the airline in July, which was still a 23 percent increase on the same month last year, when Covid-19 restrictions were still reducing tourism levels.

“In comparison with last month, the total number of passengers decreased with 32 percent and capacity was decreased by 23 percent, which was a result from the 15-day pilot strike,” the release read. 

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, went on strike for 15 days last month over pay, conditions, and the company’s refusal to rehire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic on the same terms as before. 

The strike, which cost the airline between €9m and €12m a day, was ended on July 19th, after which it took several days to get flights back to normal

Van der Werff said company said it would now continue putting in place its restructuring plan, SAS FORWARD, and push ahead with restructuring in the US, where the company has filed for Chapter 11. 

He said these would both “accelerate the transformation process that will lead to a financially stable airline, that will be able to deliver the service our customers are expecting”.