UK lifts quarantine for arrivals from several countries – but not Sweden

The UK government on Friday said it would lift its 14-day compulsory quarantine in England for 'lower risk countries' including Denmark, France, Germany and Italy on July 10th – but not for passengers travelling from Sweden.

UK lifts quarantine for arrivals from several countries – but not Sweden
London Heathrow Airport. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Travellers from Sweden will remain subject to rules requiring them to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in England, said the UK's Department for Transport as it lifted travel restrictions for a number of other countries.

“We have reviewed extensively the conditions in Sweden, based on a range of factors including the prevalence of coronavirus, the numbers of new cases and potential trajectory of the disease in that destination. Quarantine requirements have been informed by categorisation by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, in close consultation with Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer,” read a statement by the British Embassy in Stockholm explaining why the restrictions weren't lifted for travellers from Sweden.

A full list of countries exempt from the quarantine can be found here. From July 10th, passengers arriving from those countries will not be required to self-isolate on arrival in England, “unless they have visited or stopped in any other country or territory in the preceding 14 days”, according to the Department for Transport.

The UK's devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make their own decisions on travel restrictions. But the latest news from the Scottish press suggests that the 14-day quarantine will remain in place in England's northerly neighbour after July 10th, with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon having been particularly critical of British PM Boris Johnson's approach to easing coronavirus lockdown measures. 

No decision has been made on whether Wales or Northern Ireland will follow England in lifting the 14-day quarantine on July 10th. Currently travellers arriving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland could face a fine of £1,000 ($1,247) if they fail to self-isolate for the full 14 days, and a £480 fine in Scotland. 

The UK currently advises against non-essential travel to Sweden, where more than 70,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus to date and almost 4,500 have died. 

Sweden on Tuesday lifted its recommendations against non-essential travel to 14 European countries, but its advice against non-essential travel to the UK remains in place, until July 15th. There have been more than 243,000 cases of the coronavirus in England to date, and almost 40,000 deaths.

The Swedish foreign ministry's recommendation is however linked to travel restrictions and the fast-changing global situation, which could leave travellers stranded, rather than infection risks posed directly by the coronavirus itself. Sweden's advice against travel is not a legally binding ban, but has other implications, for example that your travel insurance may not be valid if you disregard the advice.

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‘A game changer’: Airlines demand EU explain new border system for non-EU travellers

Industry associations representing airlines have called on European authorities to plan a “public communications campaign” to alert non-EU nationals about new requirements to enter and exit the Schengen area.

'A game changer': Airlines demand EU explain new border system for non-EU travellers

The EU Entry/Exit System (EES) will record the biometric data (finger prints and facial recognition) of non-EU citizens travelling for short stays to the Schengen area (EU countries minus Ireland, Romania and Bulgaria, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), each time they cross the external borders.

Fully digital, the system will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. The data collected will be kept in a centralised database shared among the Schengen countries.

The EES was created to tighten up border security and will ensure the enforcement of the 90-day limit in any 180-day period for tourists and visitors. But it requires changes in the infrastructure at the external borders, including airports, and the setting up of a new digital infrastructure to connect authorities in participating countries.

Its entry into operation has already been delayed several times. The latest date for the EES launch was May this year, but last week European authorities decided to postpone it again “due to delays from the contractors”. It is now expected to enter into force at the end of 2023, as The Local reported this week.

Airline associations including European region of Airports Council International (ACI), Airlines for Europe (A4E), the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the delay and said further preparations are needed.

“The EES will be a game changer for how the EU’s borders are managed. There are, however, a number of issues which must be resolved to ensure a smooth roll out and operation of the new system so that air passengers do not face disruptions,” a joint statement says.

Things to be resolved include a “wider adoption and effective implementation of automation at national border crossing points by national authorities, funding by member states to ensure a sufficient number of trained staff and resources are deployed to manage the EU’s external border, particularly at airports,” and the “deployment of sufficient resources” to help airports and airlines with new procedures.

Airlines also said there needs to be a public communications campaign to inform non-EU citizens about the changes.

In addition, industry groups called on EU-LISA, the agency responsible for managing the system, to “strengthen communication” with airlines and with international partners such as the US “to ensure IT systems are connected and compatible.”

The decision to postpone the EES entry into operation until after the summer “will give airlines, airports and EU and national authorities the opportunity to resolve these issues and ensure the system is fully tested,” the statement continues.

The EU-LISA is currently preparing a revised timeline for the launch, which will be presented for approval at the Justice and Home Affairs Council, the meeting of responsible EU ministers, in March 2023.

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.