Norway cancels Nato exercise over virus

Norway’s armed forces have cancelled a big Nato exercise involving soldiers from nine countries because of the spread of coronavirus.

About 15,000 soldiers from the US, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium had gathered for the Cold Response winter exercise that was set to start on Thursday in northern Norway.

The decision was taken after one of the Norwegian soldiers fell ill with coronavirus. About 250 people from his company have been put in quarantine.

However, Maj Brynjar Stordal from the Norwegian joint headquarters said the reason for cancelling the exercise was that the virus was now spreading in Norwegian society and no longer involved cases that had originated abroad.

“It’s an exercise so there’ll be a time to do it again but now’s the time to focus on supporting Norwegian society,” he told the BBC. Norway has had 277 coronavirus infections so far, although no fatalities.

Organisers will now have to focus on sending the Nato forces home. “You can’t flick a switch to just shut it down,” said Maj Stordal.