June 19, 2020 / 9:29 AM / 17 days ago

Norway must keep strict border controls to avoid new infections - PM

FILE PHOTO: Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg attends a panel during the annual Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 14, 2020. REUTERS/ Andreas Gebert/File Photo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway, which has some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe, must maintain tight control of its borders to avoid importing COVID-19 cases from abroad, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Friday.

Fears of an early second wave of infections in Europe are growing as the continent lifts travel restrictions ahead of the summer holidays.

“There is still a danger of new infections ... Cases of infection coming from abroad is the biggest danger today,” Solberg told parliament. “So it is important to keep control.”

While other European countries have gradually lifted some, or all, travel restrictions, Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but belongs to the passport-free Schengen travel zone, has followed a tougher line.

Most non-residents, including tourists, are still not allowed into the country, though those who work in sectors deemed crucial, such as agriculture or oil, and those who can prove a family link with Norway can come. They must undergo a 10-day quarantine.

However, since Monday citizens and foreign residents of Denmark, Iceland, Finland and the Swedish island of Gotland have been allowed to enter Norway, and without undergoing quarantine.

People from mainland Sweden are not allowed into the country given the higher number of infections there.

As of June 18, Norway had identified a total of 8,692 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 244 deaths. It has estimated that no more than 1% of its 5.4 million population has been infected since the outbreak began.

Norway was early in Europe in imposing a lockdown, in mid-March and was able to begin lifting restrictions after Easter. The main restriction still in place is a ban on gatherings of more than 200 people.

Editing by Gareth Jones

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