Norway celebrated this week as it reopened its borders to the rest of the Nordic region.
But no one was rejoicing in nearby Sweden because it was excluded. Sweden is off limits because 56,043 of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19. That number surpasses the infection rate of 29,969 for all the other Nordic countries combined — including Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway — according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The result? Any Norwegian who shops at the Nordby Shopping Center, Scandinavia’s biggest mall on Sweden’s border, must quarantine for 10 days.
“The whole idea of Nordby is to sell to people on the other side of the border,” Stale Lovheim, the mall’s manager, told the Financial Times. “Without any customers, our idea isn’t functional.”
Nordby’s 110 shops and restaurants were built near the border to attract shoppers from Oslo and southern Norway with big discounts and offers of cut-price meat, cheese and sweets, the news outlet reported.
While border trade between Norway and Sweden has been one of the most visible signs of Nordic cooperation, that all changed with the coronavirus.
Sweden’s government refused to order a wholesale lockdown to manage COVID-19.
At the time, many praised the government for trying to limit the hit to Sweden’s economy. The government in Stockholm said it still expects the economy to shrink by 6 percent this year, worse than estimates from Norway and Denmark, the report noted.
Critics of the decision to keep the economy open said it led to the death of 5,053 of Swedish residents compared to less than 1,200 in the other four nations, WHO data reveals.
Swedish border retailers are now paying the price for the policy, the newspaper reported.
Marthe, an Oslo, Norway office worker, told the Times she would take her husband and children on the 90-minute car journey to Nordby.
“We go three or four times a year, we buy everything from dishwasher tablets to wine, and lots of sweets,” she said. “It’s not a disaster that we can’t go, but I feel the higher prices when we shop here.”
Last week, in “The Great Reopening: Shifting Preferences,” PYMNTS reported its survey of U.S. shoppers revealed that 36 percent were warming to the idea of leaving their homes and resuming their pre-pandemic routines.
But of the 2,064 respondents, 64 percent said they are choosing to shop online for fear of risking contagion.