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Medical plane carrying Norway’s king departs Malaysia

King Harald V, 87, had a pacemaker fitted after becoming unwell during a holiday to the country.

Scandinavian Airlines plane

A plane carrying Norway’s King Harald V has departed Malaysia, a day after he had a pacemaker fitted.

Europe’s oldest reigning monarch was taken to hospital with an infection during a private holiday on the northern resort island of Langkawi, the royal house said on Tuesday.

He underwent surgery at the Sultanah Maliha Hospital on Saturday to implant a temporary pacemaker due to a low heart rate, according to the royal house.

Norwegian media outlets said Harald travelled to Malaysia with his wife, Queen Sonja, to celebrate his 87th birthday.

A Scandinavian Airlines medical evacuation plane, which took off from Oslo on Thursday, arrived in Langkawi on Friday. The Boeing 737-700 aircraft has previously been used as a flying ambulance.

According to Flightradar24, the same plane departed from Langkawi on Sunday headed for Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, from where it is scheduled to travel on to Norway.

Plane taking off
The plane has departed Malaysia, and will return to Norway via the UAE (Vincent Thian/AP)

The Norwegian royal house confirmed on Sunday that the monarch has left Malaysia and the plane is expected to arrive in Oslo early on Monday.

“Upon arrival in Norway, His Majesty will be admitted to the (Oslo) hospital Rikshospitalet,” the royal palace said, adding that Harald will remain on sick leave for the next two weeks, during which Crown Prince Haakon will assume the monarch’s duties.

According to Norwegian news agency NTB, which cited information from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, the king’s transport back to Norway will cost an estimated 2 million Norwegian kroner (£150,000), which will be taken from the defence budget.

The ageing Norwegian monarch has suffered from frail health over the past few years, and has been admitted to hospital for treatment on numerous occasions.

Harald, who has been seen using crutches, had an operation to replace a heart valve in October 2020 after experiencing breathing difficulties.

He has repeatedly said he has no plans to abdicate, unlike his second cousin Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, who stepped down earlier this year.

Harald’s duties as Norway’s head of state are ceremonial and he holds no political power. He ascended to the throne following the death of his father, King Olav, in 1991.

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