Norway Shuns Coronavirus Hotspot Sweden in Relaxing Travel Restrictions

The deadly virus outbreak has created a major stir around the world in recent times infecting more than 7.5 million people globally

Norway is going to allow travel to and from Finland, Iceland, and the Swedish island Gotland from Monday, but is going to maintain travel restrictions on mainland Sweden because of its higher level of coronavirus or COVID-19 cases, amid the concerns of the second wave of infections.

Denmark, Finland, and Norway have lifted few of the controls on leisure travel they imposed to slow the COVID-19 pandemic, but they kept the most of those imposed on Sweden, which is the richest and the most populous of the Nordic nations.

Leaving most of Sweden out of the arrangements breaks with long-standing close cooperation between the Nordic countries, and goes against the wishes of the European Commission, which wants to lift by Monday the internal borders in the Schengen travel area, which in normal times has no borders. Norway is not a member of the EU but belongs to Schengen. "I think we need to be honest and say that in the Nordics this is something of a difficult issue at the moment," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.

Norway to Relax Travel Restrictions

Workers make face masks at the workshop of a company in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Jan. 28, 2020. To help fight the outbreak of pneumonia caused by novel coronavirus, workers of local medical material companies in Hubei Province rushed back to work to make protective masks, clothing and other protective equipment to guarantee the supplies. (Xinhua/Cai YangIANS) Xinhua/IANS

"At the same time we have a good conversation about how we're doing it, and the fact that we're applying objective criteria has been met with understanding," she said. Norway's arrangements add to the patchwork of bilateral travel arrangements several European countries have made. Only a handful of EU nations, including France, Italy and Belgium, have so far lifted all travel controls.

Norway will assess the public health situation of each region in the Nordics separately and will review its travel advice every fortnight, starting June 15, Solberg said. Gotland, a Baltic island with close to 60,000 inhabitants, is the only Swedish region Norway will allow Norwegians to travel to without having to undergo a ten-day quarantine on their return.

Swedish travelers from Gotland will be allowed to travel to Norway without undergoing quarantine. Sweden, which is often resented by its smaller neighbors as the "bigger brother" of the Nordics, has adopted fewer restrictions during the pandemic and by June 10, Sweden's COVID-19 deaths were 4,717 - four times the number in the other Nordic countries combined.

It also comes out amid renewed concerns about the risk of a second wave of COVID-19 contaminations, with a record daily increase in India and warnings against complacency in Europe. The initial wave of transmission has passed its peak in all European countries apart from Poland and Sweden, a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed on Friday. Sweden reported 1,396 new COVID-19 cases as of Friday, while Norway reported 13.

(With agency inputs)

Related topics : Coronavirus