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Norwegian King Harald V's health is improving but he'll need a permanent pacemaker, palace says

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — King Harald V of Norway is improving but will need a permanent pacemaker after falling ill during a trip to Malaysia, the palace said Monday, as the 87-year-old monarch was transferred to an Oslo university hospital for medical tests.

Harald returned to Norway aboard a medical airplane late Sunday, a day after he was implanted with a temporary pacemaker in the Southeast Asian country after suffering from an infection while on a private holiday at a resort island.

The king arrived Monday at Oslo’s Rikshospital in a vehicle marked “intensive ambulance” under police escort, and several members of the royal family visited him there. The palace said he will be on sick leave for two weeks, during which Crown Prince Haakan will assume the monarch's duties.

The king's infection “has come under more control,” but he has “has too low a heart rate, and will need a permanent pacemaker," the palace said Monday.

“The time for pacemaker insertion is determined by when the king is completely infection-free. This may take several days,” during which he'll likely remain in the hospital, the statement said.

Europe’s oldest reigning monarch fell ill on the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi during a trip with his wife, Queen Sonja, reportedly to celebrate his 87th birthday.

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

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 traveled on to Oslo Airport. The palace said that Sonja was traveling with the king.

According to Norwegian news agency NTB, which cited information from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, the king’s transport to Norway cost an estimated 2 million Norwegian kroner ($190,000), which will come from the defense budget.

The Norwegian monarch has had frail health in recent years with numerous hospital stays, and has been using crutches. Harald had an operation to replace a heart valve in October 2020 after being hospitalized with breathing difficulties.

Harald 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.