Brits now have to prove they have the right to live and work in Sweden in order to travel to the country freely, and if they are travelling from the UK they and other foreign nationals additionally have to be able to show an authorised – and negative – coronavirus test, no older than 72 hours.
At least half of the Brits who have been stopped on the border so far this year (between New Year's Day and Monday afternoon) did not have a valid coronavirus test, according to figures from the Swedish border police, reported by the TT news agency on Tuesday.
But several of the British nationals who were denied entry to Sweden after arriving on a flight from the UK to Landvetter Airport in Gothenburg on Sunday told The Local they had negative tests issued by the UK's national health service NHS. Some of them had to return back to the UK, while others refused and were eventually allowed into Sweden. Police told The Local on Monday that they would accept tests issued by the NHS.
The decision to tighten travel restrictions against the UK, which comes on top of travel rules changing for Brits as a result of the end of the post-Brexit transition period, was taken due to the spread of a mutated form of coronavirus, which first appeared in London and Kent. It is reported to be more contagious than other strains, but based on what scientists know so far, does not appear to cause more serious illness.
But there appears to have been a lot of confusion over which coronavirus tests are accepted by Swedish authorities. According to border police, the test should have come from “an authorised laboratory”; it does not state so explicitly on their website, but police confirmed to The Local on Monday that they are using a list of private test providers authorised by the UK government as a reference; find a full list of these on gov.uk.
“I am very concerned to hear that UK nationals resident in Sweden have been refused entry into the country,” British ambassador Judith Gough told The Local on Monday.
“It is right that travellers from the UK should be subject to public health measures, following the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 in the UK – the UK takes its public health responsibilities seriously, and was quick to notify the international community of the newly discovered variant. We have also increased our own restrictions in the UK,” she added.
“The British Embassy in Stockholm has been in regular contact with the relevant Swedish authorities over the last week and requested that any measures be clear, well-communicated and appropriate. It is clear that there have been teething problems with the new system over the weekend, and we are asking the Swedish authorities to provide greater clarity and consistency for UK nationals, who wish to return home to Sweden.”
A press spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg, whose office is behind the travel restrictions from the UK, declined to comment when approached by The Local. “As this concerns individual cases I have to direct you to the authority that is responsible for applying the regulation. Government representatives neither can nor should comment on how regulations are applied,” his spokesperson said in an email.
The Local has requested comments from the police regarding the incident at Landvetter Airport.