Crossing Norway's border will mean quarantine from Värmland and Dalarna. Photo: Dag W. Grundseth/NTB Scanpix/TT
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health has ruled that Östergötland, Örebro, Blekinge, Värmland, Uppsala and Dalarna, should now be classed as 'red' regions under its travel advisory system, after they recorded more than the 20 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the preceding two weeks.
Only three regions in Sweden – Kalmar, Södermanland and Västerbotten – are now classed as 'yellow', meaning quarantine on arrival in Norway is not necessary.
“It feels enormously disappointing to have started to go backwards again,” Johanna Söderberg, a municipal councillor from Eda in Värmland told TT.
As many as 80 percent of goods sold in the community are sold to Norwegian visitors coming across the border to shop.
“I just think of all the shops who have re-hired their staff and taken home their goods and stuff,” she said. “The big weakness is that you never know how long it will go on for. You feel completely powerless.”
Madeleine Ward, who runs a shopping centre in Töcksfors, about 80 kilometres from Oslo, said the decision was a blow.
“This is a really difficult situation, but there's nothing we can do about it,” she told TT. “We have to respect the decisions taken.”
Daniel Schüzer, a municipal councillor in Årjäng in Värmland, said that having the border was “completely crucial” for his community.
“People's whole lives' work risk going into bankruptcy,” he said. “And there are an enormous number of people who have family on the other side, or live on one side and work on the other.”
The change in travel restrictions, which are usually updated on Friday before coming into force on Saturday, were brought forward due to a situation Norway's prime minister Erna Solberg described as a “tipping point” for the country.
“In recent weeks, infections have increased again and we can only control the virus by working together. Everyone must dig out their community spirit at the moment we now find ourselves. We are now at the tipping point,” she said according to NRK.
“We see the same concerns around us in Europe and that is why we decided yesterday to make five more countries 'red',” she added.
Iceland, Cyprus, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland have all been added to the list of 'red' EEA and Schengen countries, while two regions in Denmark – Zealand and Central Jutland – are now 'red' regions to which travel is not advised.
Norway is also now operating with a 'red' and 'yellow' categorisation regarding travel advice instead of the 'red' and 'green' labelling used up to now, Solberg said.
That means Norway also advises against non-essential travel to 'yellow' countries, even though these countries do not have quarantine requirements for arrivals in Norway (formerly 'green' countries).
“As the situation is now, we are advising against all foreign travel and are extending the foreign ministry's travel advice [against all travel outside of Europe, ed.] until October 1st. Right now it's best to stay home in Norway,” she said.
According to the agency Östergötland recorded 28.1 cases per 100,000, Blekinge 29.5, Värmland 20.2,
Uppsala 23.9, Dalarna 26.8 and Örebro 29.8.
357 new infections of coronavirus were registered in Norway last week, an increase of 158 new infections compared to the week before.
That includes an increase in eight counties (Viken, Oslo, Trøndelag, Vestfold og Telemark, Nordland, Agder, Møre og Romsdal, Innlandet) and a fall in new infections in three (Rogaland, Vestland, Troms og Finnmark), NRK reports.
The restrictions aim to keep outbreaks at a local level so that they can be contained with follow-up measures such as contact tracing, Norwegian Directorate of Health director Bjørn Guldvog said at the government briefing.
“One thing for us to manage local outbreaks, which we can limit on an ongoing basis through responses and contact tracing. The next is if we fail to keep (outbreaks) local and get a new national outbreak. The third, which we must have plans for, is if the global situation worsens considerably. The situation in the rest of the world also affects the situation in Norway,” Guldvog said.