After 18 months of very strict entry regulations, the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has managed to stay clear of the COVID-19 pandemic — until now.
However, on Wednesday, an ailing Russian fisherman was brought from his vessel near Bear Island in the northern Barents Sea to the hospital in Longyearbyen by a helicopter. Located at 78 degrees North, the small hospital is the world’s northernmost.
The case is confirmed by the Governor of Svalbard’s office whose search-and-rescue helicopter brought the patient from the ship to Longyearbyen.
The man was soon sent by air ambulance from Longyearbyen to the much larger hospital in Tromsø, on mainland Norway.
Doctor Knut Selmer at Longyearbyen hospital told NRK Troms and Finnmark that all medical personnel that had been in contact with the infected man wore COVID-19 protective equipment.
The medical officials do not fear others in town are infected by the virus. The Russian fishing boat, however, most likely has more of the crew infected. The boat is still in the open sea. Svalbard hospital has only one bed for intensive care and one respirator. Longyearbyen was the first in Norway to fully vaccinate all inhabitants.