When police patrol officers in Tórshavn on early Sunday morning picked up a tourist who had passed out drunk on the street, they likely knew little of the scandal that was in the making. After having escorted the drunk back to his hotel, the officers learned that the man had arrived about two days earlier along with four of his friends, and that all of them had come with the sole intention of going on a pub crawl — an activity currently prevented by heavy restrictions in their native Denmark.
The Faroe Islands, unlike many other countries, returned to Covid-free status on Friday, after having followed a strategy based on the use of official guidelines and public trust as opposed to putting in place restrictive legislation. According to Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen, this strategy is a key reason for the country’s success in combating the Covid-19 virus.
While other nations enforced mandatory quarantines for travelers, the Faroe Islands instead opted for using recommendations — widely distributed public advisory information — urging everyone arriving to remain in self-isolation until they’ve received a negative Covid-19 test result six days after arrival.
Yet clearly, some people are having a hard time following the guidelines, which became embarrassingly obvious over the weekend as reports surfaced about this group of tourists who apparently headed straight for the pubs after having arrived in the Faroe Islands.
The news quickly sparked outrage in the Faroe Islands and spread to Danish media outlets as well.
Besides, perhaps adding suspense to the story, being a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands still has a few key public institutions that remain part of the Danish government structure, including the police, notably.
Michael Boolsen, Chief of the Faroe Islands Police and chairman of the Epidemics Commission of the country, expressed his regret over the behavior of the Danish tourists.
“We have these guidelines to protect society as a whole, and when a few individuals choose not to follow them, they put the entire society at risk,” he said, adding that although there is a mandatory test for all arrivals, someone can still test negative early on and test positive days later, hence the recommendation for a second test on the sixth day.
The Faroe Islands’ Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen told Danish news agency Ritzau that he found the tourists’ behavior “disrespectful”.
“It’s disrespectful that someone comes here and takes advantage of the good situation we have in the Faroe Islands,” Prime Minister Nielsen stated.
Mr. Nielsen went on to say that he wishes to avoid having to make quarantine for travelers a legal requirement.
“I hope all those who consider going to the Faroe Islands will respect both the written and the unwritten rules of the country,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Danish tabloid B.T. quoted a spokesperson for the Faroe Islands police as saying: “It’s an unfortunate problem when Danes without a real connection to the Faroe Islands don’t follow the guidelines. The Faroe Islands don’t have as many ventilators as Denmark, hence people are afraid of the virus making a comeback.”
The tourists didn’t break any laws, still; hence their disregard for official health guidelines won’t carry any legal consequences for them. One bar in Tórshavn, however, chose to kick out the drunks once members of staff had identified their rather questionable reason for being there, according to B.T. The tabloid further reported that the local police had received “many calls” from concerned citizens about the binge-drinking tourists.
The Police asked everyone who has been out clubbing in Tórshavn this past weekend to keep a close eye on their own health and make sure to get tested should they start to feel ill.