Dogsled race in arctic Norway cancelled over COVID-19 fears

Dog sledding with the sun just above the horizon in freezing cold Finnmark. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Europe’s longest dogsled race was supposed to mark its 40th anniversary, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the event to be cancelled.

It is freezing cold in Finnmark this weekend with temperatures dropping down to -32°C in the Pasvik valley. A seriously hard challenge for mushers and the dogs, but it is exactly such conditions that since 1981 have attracted participants to race the 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) between Alta and Kirkenes and return.

The pandemic, however, put a stop to the race, the organizer informs in a press release.

“The guidelines in connection with the pandemic make clear that large events bringing together participants from several municipalities and different regions of the country are not recommended.”

Norway has some of the strictest entry rules in Europe, with borders practically being closed since January 29 to all foreigners not living in the country, or specialist workers and employees within health care professions. Several cases of new coronavirus variant have been detected after the new year and authorities fear a worsening of the breakout.

Last year, the Finnmark race had participants from five countries. For 2021, 94 participants had signed up for the start in the long 1,200 km race (14-dogs), the shorter 600 km (8-dogs), and the 200 km junior-class race (6-dogs).

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Alaska politicians send Trudeau letter saying they’re “shocked” over Canada’s COVID-19 cruise ship ban, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Jobless huskies in Arctic Finland travelling south for work as COVID-19 puts breaks on winter season, Yle News

Denmark/Greenland: Greenland authorities buoyed by high demand for COVID-19 vaccine, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland institutes new COVID-19 border measures, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway extends border closure with Finland due to pandemic, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Norway closes borders over fears of virus, but exempts Russian fishermen from severely infected border region, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedes caught in Norway border limbo, Radio Sweden

United States: Negative COVID-19 test no longer required to enter Alaska, The Associated Press

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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