The Arctic Five cities and COVID-19 pandemic – Return to workplaces

A newly released report examine whether people have returned to their workplaces or if remote work still the general trend in the cities of Oulu, Rovaniemi, Luleå, Umeå and Tromsø.


National and regional recommendations of remote work have affected how people spent time at their workplaces. As the number of new COVID-19 cases changes governments and regional authorities either tighten or loosen their recommendations regarding remote work. However, these recommendations are not the only factor affecting the behaviour of employers and employees. For example, in Oulu, people visited workplaces significantly less this autumn than the prior year even when the remote work recommendation did not hold. At the moment in Rovaniemi and Tromsø, the number of visits to workplaces is at the same level as a year ago. In Luleå and Umeå people have returned to workplaces as the number of visits to workplaces is higher than in 2020.

The COVID-19 situation in the Arctic Five cities has changed. During the first half of 2021 there were clearly more COVID-19 cases in Luleå and Umeå than in the other cities. However, currently the number of new cases is the highest in Tromsø and Oulu, where the COVID-19 situation is the worst it has been during the whole pandemic. In Tromsø, the cases are spreading among school-age children and also the first Omicron variant cases have been confirmed. In Oulu, intensive care units are filling up quickly, and some patients have already been transferred to other cities. The authorities are trying to increase the vaccination coverage and the COVID-19 passport has been taken into practice in Finland and Sweden, and Norwegian authorities are planning to do so as well. The EU’s drug regulator, European Medicines Agency, has approved vaccines for children aged 5–11.

This report broadens the analysis performed in earlier reports studying the economic impacts and recovery processes in the Arctic Five cities.

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