Norway’s King Harald V is improving but will need a permanent pacemaker after falling ill during a trip to Malaysia, the palace said, as the 87-year-old monarch was transferred to an Oslo university hospital for medical tests.

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

The king arrived on Monday at Oslo’s Rikshospital in a vehicle marked “intensive ambulance” under police escort, and several members of the royal family visited him.

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 “too low a heart rate, and will need a permanent pacemaker”, the palace said.

Plane taking off
The plane departed Malaysia on Sunday (Vincent Thian/AP)

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 travelled on to Oslo Airport. The palace said that Sonja was travelling with the king.

According to Norwegian news agency NTB, which cited information from Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, the king’s transport to Norway will come from the defence 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 admitted to hospital 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.