We’re bringing you the story of a couple who refused to be taken to a quarantine hotel upon arrival in Norway.
This article is part of Norway Today’s coverage of quarantine hotels and the separation of loved ones. Among our coverage is this article, which brings readers glimpses from within quarantine hotels, and this article, in which the Norwegian government gave us a statement on their reasoning for the hotels.
The couple mentioned in this article (identity known to Norway Today – anonymity has been provided to protect the couple from reprisals in response to their revelations) was arriving from the US and both were fully vaccinated in the US. When the authorities started to take them to a quarantine hotel at the airport, they refused.
Read on to hear their experience.
Understanding Norway’s quarantine hotels
First, a bit of context.
Norway’s government introduced the quarantine hotel measure on November 5, 2020. The general rule is that anyone entering the country must stay in a quarantine hotel for a period of time – except for certain groups marked exempt according to the government.
From the time of their introduction, Norway’s quarantine hotels have been debated. Questions were raised among members of the public, including: What’s the point of vaccines if they mean little in Norway? What’s the scientific basis of treating people (“essential” and “non-essential” travelers, travelers vaccinated in Norway vs. outside of it, etc.) so differently? Why stay in a quarantine hotel if one has a safe(r) place to quarantine in Norway? Quarantining in a private home could be safer than in a hotel, where employees are coming in and out, and people who have just traveled are staying. During April and May of 2021, in fact, the Indian COVID virus variant was detected among employees at a quarantine hotel in Viken.
On June 2, a majority in the Norwegian parliament, consisting of opposition parties, demanded that the government allow fully vaccinated people to be released from quarantine hotels when they come to Norway from abroad. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) has believed since early May that vaccinated people have a minimal risk of becoming infected and spreading the infection further. The government nevertheless discarded this advice and has, among other things, justified it on the grounds that there is a danger that someone may produce false vaccination evidence.
Later in the day, also on June 2, it was announced that vaccinated travelers would not have to quarantine in hotels anymore. But… They’d still have to quarantine, but could do it at home “or another suitable place”. But also… Skipping the quarantine hotels only applies to people who were vaccinated within Norway: “Paper documents or other countries’ documentation are not verifiable, and you’ll have to go to quarantine hotels (if you only have those),” Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Monica Mæland (H) said.
What happens when you refuse Norway’s controversial quarantine hotel measure?
The gentleman we spoke to, who had (like many others) serious concerns about quarantine hotels, decided to skip out on them entirely.
He and his wife are planning to combat any fines forced on them due to this in court (which is in line with the recommendation of ICJ-Norway).
“It’s too bad that now here in Norway you need to be fearful of the Government”
The gentleman’s name and surname are known to Norway Today’s editorial office and anonymized in this article for fear of retaliation.
“We are a bit fearful that the Norwegian Government will punish me via UDI as I have an open immigration application. It’s too bad that now, here in Norway, you need to be fearful of the Government,” the gentleman told us.
Read on for the full story.
What began as a COVID-19 love story…
“My job title is ‘Senior Vice President, Federal Markets.’ I work for a US Government contracting company selling classified critical infrastructure for Command and Control, Data Centers, Counter UAS (Unmanned Ariel Systems), and Voice and Data Networks. We sell to the United States Department of Defense and other US Government Agencies.
“I met my wife here in Norway on May 18, 2019, while attending a NATO conference in Lillestrøm. Since then, we have gone back and forth seeing each other almost monthly. When COVID hit last March, I was here in Norway and left to go back to the US. With closed borders, we were separated from each other from late March until July 10, when we met in Croatia after they opened back up. While in Croatia, Norway announced they would allow boyfriends and girlfriends into the country, so I came back to Norway with her. We ended up getting engaged in November, and I started the paperwork for family immigration (we plan to live both in the US and Norway as we both have children ages 17 and 18).
“Fast forward, we were married in early February and then I got called away on business in late February which, now that the US is reopening, will be a regular occurrence and quarantine is no longer going to be an option for me.
Vaccinated people can skip the hotels – but only if they were vaccinated in Norway
“So, onto our most recent experience.
“We arrived recently at a Norwegian airport. Negative COVID tests in hand as well as two forms of proof that we are both FULLY vaccinated.
“The fact that we are both vaccinated makes everything especially ridiculous.
“As of today, June 2, Norway will allow vaccinated individuals to quarantine at home. ONLY IF you were vaccinated in Norway. My wife and I were vaccinated in the USA. What are we supposed to do? Get vaccinated again? This is completely crazy.
Poor treatment by airport staff
“Upon arrival at the airport, we also had lots of paperwork with us that shows the level of infection from the area we came from (midwest United States). We also had paperwork that cites we are breaking no Norwegian laws and shows that they [the Government] are violating Norway’s constitution with mandatory quarantine.
“When we got to the customs agent, he saw my US passport and immediately said ‘quarantine hotel’. I tried to explain to him our reasons for travel and show him my US Military Government contractor ID and explain why I had left Norway for work in February. Following my work trip, I traveled back to my home in the US because my application for family immigration was processing in Norway. My wife joined me in April to take care of some business and visit with our kids (who can’t get into Norway), etc. We got her a COVID vaccine two days after her arrival in the US because of the concern with the slow rollout in Norway. We are now both fully vaccinated.
“Back to the airport. The treatment at the border control and as you proceed to collect your luggage, get your COVID test, etc., makes you feel like a prisoner.
“We took our COVID tests at the airport and both, of course, tested negative. Then we were placed in another area under ‘security guard’.
“There was a doctor in our group that had a letter exempting her from quarantine as she had just three days of work at a hospital. They would not even listen to one word she had to say and she was very upset. As were many other people being forced into this.
“I walked past the security guard and said ‘Sorry, we aren’t going'”
“Here is where it gets fun. They counted us up and the guards escorted us toward the bus to take us to a hotel. When we walked out the door, we walked straight to a taxi (not really planned but we had said all along that we would refuse to go to a corona hotel as we own our own home here in Norway and have adequate quarantine.
“I walked past and told the security guard ‘Sorry, we aren’t going’.
“He freaked out a bit and approached me at which point I said ‘Are you going to detain us? Are you going to arrest us? Are you going to lay hands on us?’ He said ‘No’, and got on the radio to get assistance. He then told me it was a 40,000 NOK fine to which I responded ‘We have already consulted an attorney and we are prepared to take it to court’. Two very angry security guards came out as I was loading our luggage. One asked me repeatedly what our names were which I never told her.
“Then they started berating our cab driver and took a picture of his cab and license plate. He held up for us and got into a very heated discussion with them, and we packed our bags and went home.
“We are prepared to go the distance and discuss it in court”
“If we are visited by the police, we have broken no laws and spent a lot of time making sure of that prior to arriving. We disagree with any fine and we are prepared to go the distance and discuss it in court. If the police want to interview us at the police station after quarantine, we would be happy to with our lawyer.
“We have always quarantined at home and followed all of the rules imposed by the Government. But the quarantine hotel was just a bridge too far for us. It is wrong and illegal, and they continue to show preferential treatment for football players, Hollywood, and other foreign nationals entering the country daily for work who aren’t even tested.
“This constant violation of human rights by Norway and their utter lack of doing what is right per the science needs the attention of the world. I’ve been here a lot in the past two years, and I’m afraid Norway’s reputation as a leader in human rights and dignity is getting very badly tarnished.
“Ultimately, I will have to leave again in a couple of months for work. Even though I’m fully vaccinated, and the area I’m from in the US has a very low case count and a high vaccination rate, I will likely be in the same situation again.
“The United States, by the way, is fully open in most parts of the country. I wish my wife had more work flexibility as we would just ride it out there. No masks, no restrictions, and cases dropping daily.”
Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayNews
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