On March 14 2020, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) advised students abroad to return home in the face of a global COVID-19 pandemic. The warning was for “countries with poorly developed collective infrastructure, for example the USA, where it can be difficult to get transport to the airport if you don’t have a car” and “the same applies if you don’t have health insurance”:
Screenshots were clearly taken from the Facebook page “NTNU – Norwegian University of Science and Technology.” The post began as follows (emphasis ours, aligning with the screenshot’s red square):
In accordance with the recommendations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD), NTNU strongly recommends that all NTNU students who are outside Norway return home. This applies if you are staying in a country with poorly developed health services and infrastructure and/or collective infrastructure, for example the USA. The same applies if you do not have health insurance.
However, the page’s March 14 2020 post remained visible, and it featured a slightly softer message — with no mention of the United States alongside a mention of collective infrastructure, poorly developed health services, or health insurance:
On March 15 2020, we located an identical message on NTNU’s “Corona virus – guidelines and advice Students abroad” page. As of March 16 2020, mention of the United States was again missing, leading to confusion about whether the message existed at all:
— Kelly Ann Collins (@itskac) March 15, 2020
But a version of the page archived on March 15 2020 did contain the exact verbiage we found in the screenshots. Beginning with “Dear student,” it read:
Recommend that you travel home to Norway
In line with the advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I, as NTNU’s Rector, strongly recommend that all NTNU students who are outside Norway return home.
This applies especially if you are staying in a country with poorly developed health services. This also applies for countries with poorly developed collective infrastructure, for example the USA, where it can be difficult to get transport to the airport if you don’t have a car. The same applies if you don’t have health insurance.
I ask you to reply urgently to tell us what you are thinking of doing, to one of the addresses listed under the section “Reply to NTNU”.
If you need consular assistance, for example if you are facing challenges in travelling home or with travel documents and visas, contact the Norwegian foreign service mission where you are.
NTNU also has an agreement with Sjømannskirken, the Norwegian Church Abroad, which allows you to get help from them. Sjømannskirken has a useful app with an overview of all local emergency numbers, wherever you are in the world. The app is free and you can find it by searching for “sjømannskirken” or “nødnummer” (emergency number) in your app store.
Note that everyone who arrives in Norway from abroad will be quarantined for 14 days.
Screenshots of NTNU’s COVID-19 guidance for students abroad — which applied “especially if you are staying in a country with poorly developed health services” or “countries with poorly developed collective infrastructure, for example the USA, where it can be difficult to get transport to the airport if you don’t have a car” or “if you don’t have health insurance [in the US]” — continued circulating on March 16 2020. A live version lacked that specific wording, leading users to question whether the screenshots were real. They were real, and the post was subsequently edited to remove reference to the United States’ infrastructure and health care services. A web version survived until March 15 2020, at which time it was also edited.