May 15, 2020 / 12:50 PM / 2 months ago

Norway likely to keep coronavirus travel curbs until August 20

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway will likely keep travel restrictions in place until Aug. 20, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday, as it negotiates a path between restarting economic activity and preventing a new wave of coronavirus infections.

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaks during a news conference on reopening society after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in Oslo, Norway May 7, 2020. NTB Scanpix/Fredrik Hagen via REUTERS

The restrictions include official advice against travelling abroad unless necessary, a 10-day quarantine for all people returning from abroad, and no entry to most non-Norwegians who do not have the right to live and work in Norway.

“We do not wish to maintain these (restrictions) longer than we have to, and at the same time we want to give people as well as the travel industry in this country as much predictability as we can,” Solberg told a news conference.

“My advice is to plan for holidays in Norway,” she added.

The three Baltic republics have set up a “travel bubble” allowing free travel between each other but that is yet to happen for nearby Nordic countries, which collaborate closely, though this would be considered before June 15.

Norway may decide to loosen restrictions imposed on leisure travel from other Nordic states - which include Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and Finland - by June 15, and will consider admitting travellers from selected other European countries by July 20.

Sweden, which shares a 1,630-km (1,000-mile) border with Norway, has adopted a mix of legislation and recommendations in response to the coronavirus pandemic, rather than declaring a full lockdown as seen in most of the rest of Europe.

Sweden has registered more than 3,500 coronavirus-linked deaths - a toll far lower than many large EU countries but around five times higher than Denmark and more than 10 times that of its other Nordic neighbours.

“We have a clear ambition to do it (reopen travel) Nordic-wide by June 15 but we have to assess the individual countries’ situation with contamination,” Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told public broadcaster NRK.

Foreigners working in sectors considered crucial to Norway, such as agriculture, fisheries or the oil industry, are already allowed to come into the country though they still have to submit to a 10-day quarantine.

While the government is encouraging domestic tourism this summer, the exclusion of foreign tourists without offering substantial financial support to travel firms will trigger a string of bankruptcies, warned the Enterprise Federation of Norway, locally known as Virke.

“The government is suffocating the charter holiday industry,” the lobby group said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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