Until last year, people hardly noticed as they crossed between the two nations. It has often been hard to tell exactly when you were leaving one country for the other. More often than not, a small blue sign reading “Sverige” was the only indication Norwegians had that they were leaving their home country for Sweden.
But with Sweden’s approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic being significantly more relaxed than Norway’s, the old borderless way of life is just a memory, at least for now.
Today, the few drivers approaching the border between Norway and Sweden are met either by military personnel, police patrols, physical barricades or all of the above. Fourteen months after the pandemic was declared, strict Norwegian travel restrictions are still enforced along the more than 1,000-mile-long border, and only those who are willing to go through a 10-day quarantine may pass, with a few exceptions.
It may ease soon. Sweden plans to reopen border crossings with neighbors, including Norway, beginning Monday.
Over the past few months, driving along the Norwegian side of the border, from the southern town of Halden to the northern one of Narvik, I’ve met people who’ve had their daily lives turned upside down. People are prohibited from having coffee with their next-door neighbors or celebrating birthdays in person. For a while, they were even barred from simply going to work. Close relatives haven’t seen one another in more than a year, married couples cannot meet and people are prevented from attending weddings and funerals — all because of these seemingly harmless barricades.
Photographer Adrian Øhrn Johansen is about to publish a book with his documentation of the closed-border crossing points between his native country, Norway, and Sweden. The book will be published by the Swedish publisher Journal.
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