Across Our Region: Top stories from the last seven days

The biggest stories, and other interesting news, from the eight Nordic and Baltic countries plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Across Our Region

Hej! Tere! Sveiki! Halló!

If you’re a regular News Now Finland reader then hopefully you’re well-versed in all the news that’s happening here at home. But do you know what’s going on across our region? What’s been hitting the headlines in Iceland or Lithuania? What are the top stories in Denmark or Estonia?

In our new regular Sunday morning feature we’re pulling together the most important stories – and some other interesting pieces of news – from the past week in seven Nordic and Baltic countries, plus our eastern neighbour Russia.

Everything’s in one place, with links to more information and sources clearly marked, so you can be sure there’s no fake news. Enjoy scrolling through the stories on your phone or tablet every Sunday, and catching up with the news Across Our Region.

Anyone traveling to Estonia from a European country is now required to self-isolate for 10-days on arrival. That’s because all European countries have more than 50 positive tests per 100,000 population in the previous two weeks, the threshold set by the government for quarantines. There is one exception to the rule – almost. The infection rate in the Vatican is currently zero, but anyone traveling from the Vatican to Estonia would have to come via Italy, and is therefore subject to the 10-day quarantine rule. [Estonian World]

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has called for a joint digital region encompassing all the Nordic and Baltic countries. Kaljulaid made the comments on an official visit to Norway, where she said the global fight against coronavirus has shown how important the role of technology plays in such crises. [Baltic Times]

The Estonian Navy celebrated its 102 birthday this week – founded in 1918, the same year the country declared independence. [ERR News]

Sweden is implementing tough new measures as the number of Covid-19 cases there soars. It includes a ban on gatherings of more than eight people, with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven saying an “unprecedented” response was needed if his country is to curb transmission of the virus. [Bloomberg]

The cities of Stockholm and Malmö are closing gyms, swimming pools, art galleries, museums and other amenities run by local councils, in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus. In Gothenburg, local authorities have also announced their intention to close museums and libraries. There are now local coronavirus restrictions in place in every Swedish region as the second wave hits the country hard. As of 20th November some 6,406 coronavirus-related deaths have been confirmed in Sweden. [The Local Sweden]

RUSSIA says its official coronavirus-related death toll stands at more than 33,000 people, but Kremlin critics think the number is much higher as the country’s healthcare system struggles to cope with the influx of patients. One statistician estimates there have been 130,000 excess deaths this year and video inside crowded hospitals shows crowded wards and morgues with bodies stacked on top of each other. [CNN]

A new law that would give Russian President Vladimir Putin lifetime immunity from prosecution has passed the first reading in the lower house of the Duma this week. Currently Russian presidents are only immune from prosecution for crimes committed while in office, but the new law would extend that and also include members of the president’s family. It also makes Vladimir Putin exempt from searches, arrests or questioning. [Moscow Times / AFP]

Video released this week show Russian special forces rescuing a 7-year old boy apparently being held captive by a suspected paedophile. The child went missing at the end of September. [BBC]

DENMARK‘s mass culling of mink to stop the spread of a coronavirus-variant that had jumped between animals and humans, continues to have political implications. This week the minister of agriculture resigned, and the opposition has put pressure on the prime minister to step down over the culling of all mink – which previously the government had admitted was illegal. In opinion polls, the Danish government’s popularity has fallen by 20%. [New York Times]

The most famous restaurant name in Denmark Noma, is changing its menu. The two-starred Michelin restaurant is ditching the high-end dining experience to open a burger and chips joint instead. The kitchen will still use organic ingredients and some creative techniques, but offer a much cheaper dining experience. While dinners at Noma could cost more than €300, the burgers and chips at POPL – which opens early December after a successful pop-up experiment during the summer – are around €25 including a side of fries. [Guardian]

The Latvian government has announced more sanctions against neighbour Belarus, adding several dozen extra names to a travel ban list. The ban includes Belarus government ministers and senior officials in several ministries, with the Latvians noting the list was drawn up in cooperation with Estonia and Lithuania as well. [LSM – Latvian Public Broadcasting]

Police in Latvia have raided a number of locations suspected of being involved in a human trafficking ring. Foreign workers, reportedly from India, were found to be working in several bakeries under forced labour conditions. The police apparently got a tip-off from the Indian embassy about their citizens working after being trafficked. [LSM – Latvian Public Broadcasting]

Norway-based low-cost airline Norwegian has filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors in Ireland, where its aircraft assets are held. “The purpose of the process is to reduce debt, rightsize the fleet and secure new capital” the company said in a statement this week. Founded in 1993, the airline has seen rapid expansion across Europe and long-haul services as well. However this year the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has severely hit Norwegian’s bottom line. The company’s stock has lost more than 98% of its value on the Oslo Stock Exchange this year. [CNN]

Norway’s quarantine hotels are open for business – where new arrivals from high risk coronavirus countries can stay at a subsidized rate during their self-isolation. All meals are provided during the stay, but guests are restricted to certain floors of the hotels and no guests are allowed. [Forbes]

The government of Iceland is set to offer free Covid-19 tests to incoming passengers from 1st December to 1st January. The aim of the move is to encourage people to be tested rather than to commit to a period in quarantine, so reducing the likelihood that they will bring the infection with them into the country. [Iceland Ministry of Health]

A new report written by GRECO, the Group of States Against Corruption, says Iceland must do more to fight corruption and do more to improve the integrity of senior officials and law enforcement officers. GRECO notes that Iceland has satisfactorily implemented only four out of 18 recommendations made in a previous report. [Iceland Monitor]

An ambitious reforestation project is raising money to plant 170 hectares of trees in Iceland. The island used to be 40% covered in trees but deforestation and soil erosion over the decades have reduced this to just 5% today. [Reykjavik Grapevine]

Lithuania’s incoming prime minister Ingrida Šimonytė announced her choices for the cabinet this week. Out of the 14 government ministers she proposes, six will be filled by women. [Baltic News Network]