Norway authorities unsure when foreign travel will be able to resume

Norway’s travel restrictions are unlikely to be eased before everyone above the age of 45 has been vaccinated against Covid-19, a senior health official has said.

Earlier this month, the director of infection prevention and control at the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH), Geir Bukholm, said that travel to and from Norway could resume by the end of May.

Residents over the age of 45 years in Norway will have received their first dose of the Covid vaccine by that time, providing for a safe easing of the country’s travel restrictions, Bukholm said at the time.

“It will eventually be possible to open the borders and have normal tourist traffic. And everything related to social meetings. That could happen at the end of May, although I cannot be completely sure about it,” Bukholm said.

In the most recent vaccination scenario published by NIPH on March 12th, the cautious estimate for completion of vaccination of over-45s is the beginning of June. Meanwhile, Norway has seen an increase in coronavirus infections described by health minster Bent Høie on Wednesday as a “third wave” of the virus.

READ ALSO: Norway in ‘third wave’ of coronavirus but no new national restrictions yet

Bukholm told ABC Nyheter on Wednesday that NIPH does not have an estimate for when travel may resume and that it is dependent upon the situation with the epidemic and progression of the vaccination programme as well as the intended travel destination.

“It was certainly not the intention in the interview in question to create hope that travel will be possible at the end of May,” Bukholm said in regard to his earlier comments, which were given to newspaper VG.

The senior NIPH official stressed that his message was that changes to travel restrictions would be justified once vaccination of people over 45 years old had been completed.

“It will not be until that point that the type of travel activity which could be permitted will be reviewed,” he said.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”