Svalbard has its first real COVID case | Polarjournal
At the hospital, the first resident of Longyearbyen tested positive for the COVID virus. Picture: Michael Wenger

COVID is still in control of the world. Despite vaccination campaigns and measures, basically all parts of the world report ever-increasing numbers of infections. Svalbard was one of the very few places in the world that had not recorded a COVID infection. But as of now, this status no longer applies.

We have learned that a Longyearbyen resident has tested positive for the Corona virus. The test was conducted by the hospital in Longyearbyen. The affected person is doing well under the circumstances and had a mild course of the infection. Currently, the person is in isolation at home.

Research has shown that the person concerned had been in Tromsø prior to the infection. Picture: Michael Wenger

The person suffering from COVID had been staying in Tromsø before the infection, research by PolarJournal has revealed. No more COVID cases had been recorded there as recently as early October. But at present, the authorities report 17 new infections. The trend in the town is upward, according to official data. In Norway itself, the number of cases had fallen sharply during the summer, prompting the government at the time to relax its rigorous protection measures and entry requirements. From August onwards, the number of cases shot up again as a result, but is now on the decline again throughout Norway.

The competent authority in Svalbard is not concerned by the infection. It states that only people who have been in close proximity to the sick person and feel sick should have a test. However, appropriate people have already been informed by the person who tested positive. No other cases are known so far.

A few weeks ago, various media had reported a first case of COVID in Svalbard. However, it had been a Russian fisherman who had fallen ill on a fishing vessel and had been taken first to Longyearbyen and then to Tromsø hospital. A true “domestic” case has not been officially reported to date.

With the eased requirements on the mainland, similar eased requirements on Svalbard have also entered into force. This increases the risk of bringing the virus to Longyearbyen. But authorities are confident they have the situation under control. Archive photo: Heiner Kubny

For the authorities, the news is not surprising. Since the Norwegian government had eased the flight and entry regulations to Norway and Svalbard, it was expected that the virus would find its way to Svalbard. Infection control officer Knut Selmer had warned of this some time ago, telling Svalbardposten in an interview that the virus was on the doorstep and it was no longer a question of if, but when it would occur. That question has now been answered.

Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal

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