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What is going on with Norway’s plan to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions?

Pictured is a plane full of passengers.
Very little has been said around Norway's entry rules since late September. Pictured are passengers on a long haul flight. Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash
At the end of September, Norway unveiled a roadmap to lift its Covid-19 entry restrictions, but little has happened since.

Norway has maintained a policy of strict border restrictions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with a range of measures taken into use.

The government in late September unveiled plans to eventually lift the country’s Covid-19 entry rules with phase one beginning on September 25th. The initial phase saw a significant relaxation in the rules for travellers from within the European Economic Area (EEA, EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). 

The first phase also opened up Norway’s borders to partners and close family of residents and citizens outside the EEA wishing to visit their loved ones. 

Phase two would see restrictions further eased for non-EEA travellers, while during phase three, the government planned to take another look at entry and quarantine rules. Travel-related testing would also be phased out, but with the option to reintroduce it if necessary.

Why haven’t we heard much from the government? 

For several reasons, news and updates since September have been slow. For starters, a new government has taken over the reins since the roadmap was announced and has been occupied with key domestic matters such as a proposed state budget for next year. which it presented it within weeks of taking over.

Covid-19 infections have meanwhile been trending upwards in Norway for several weeks. The record for daily recorded cases throughout the pandemic has been set twice so far in November. 

With coronavirus cases rising in Norway and elsewhere, the government was unlikely to provide much of an update to the current travel rules. 

When are we likely to hear any update?

The last update from government came at the end of October when the health minister said that current health restrictions would continue for the time being.

At the end of last week, the government announced measures aimed at slowing increasing infections. These include more testing for the unvaccinated close contacts of people infected with Covid-19 and health workers, and the reintroduction of the domestic Covid-19 certificate. 

READ ALSO: Norway to reinstate Covid-19 certificate as virus cases surge

Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl did not appear at the government briefing announcing the return of the Covid-19 certificate. Mehl’s ministry said she needed longer to consider recommendations that Norway’s health authorities have made regarding the country’s entry rules. 

“The Minister of Justice was originally to attend the press conference because she is responsible for issues related to entry. Now the government has decided to spend a little more time considering the health authorities’ recommendations related to entry,” Trond Ivar Brække, political advisor in the justice ministry, informed newswire NTB. 

It is currently unclear what precisely the Nordic country’s health chiefs have recommended to the government.

The fact that health authorities have provided recommendations to the justice ministry means we may see something in the near future after weeks of radio silence. But it isn’t clear when exactly we will hear from the government. 

What could be announced, if anything? 

Predicting what Norway may do next with its border rules is difficult, but a few scenarios could play out. Because so little is known so far, it’s worth noting that the possible scenarios are just, at best, educated guesses based on what has happened before. 

Firstly, the Norwegian government could choose to continue with the current system and rules for the foreseeable future due to the current infection situation. The government may decide to announce that the current restrictions will remain the same, or it may say nothing. 

Secondly, it could tighten the rules slightly. It would be tough to predict or guess what may or not may be implemented. One previous measure mooted by Bjørn Guldvog, health director at the Norwegian Directorate of Health, was random Covid testing at the border. Even with infections rising, it seems unlikely that Norway would take a significant step back and tighten the rules for who can enter the country. 

If Norway decided that the risk of import infection was low and to loosen its border rules (which seems unlikely), then it may choose to take the step to phase two, which would see a relaxation of entry and quarantine rules. Again, this seems unlikely, and if the government were to loosen restrictions, it might choose to do so with less significant change. 


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