What’s going on with Sweden’s travel bans?

What's going on with Sweden's travel bans?
Police check passports on the Swedish side of the Öresund Bridge. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
Some of Sweden's entry bans are set to expire at the end of the month, and The Local asked the Public Health Agency about what we can expect.

There are currently a few different bans on travel into Sweden, which depend on the country you’re travelling from, purpose of travel and other factors such as whether you live or work in Sweden.

Ban on entry from non-EU/EEA countries

There is currently a ban in place on travel to Sweden from non-EU countries, but there are several exceptions to the rule, including if you live in Sweden, are an EU citizen, or are travelling for urgent reasons. The ban is dependent on the country you travel from, not nationality or residency.

Several countries are exempt from the ban, so as of March 17th, you can travel to Sweden from the following countries regardless of the purpose of travel, including to visit family or friends:

New Zealand
South Korea

This list is regularly updated, and several countries that were previously on the list have been removed. You can find an English-language explanation of the exemptions from the Swedish police.

Ban on entry from Denmark or Norway

Within the EU/EEA, it is possible to travel to Sweden from most countries regardless of purpose of travel. But there is an exception for travel from two of Sweden’s closest neighbours, Denmark and Norway, which are currently subject to an entry ban.

There are some exceptions to these travel bans, including Swedish citizens and people who live or work in Sweden.

You can prove you live in Sweden by showing an extract of the Swedish population registry (available for free from Skatteverket), a Swedish ID card with your personnummer, or other documents showing you have lived or will live in Sweden for at least a year.

These bans are in place until at least March 31st. As for what happens then, the Swedish Public Health Agency has proposed that the entry bans be lifted when they expire at the end of the month. It is the government that makes decisions on entry bans, but the bans on travel from Denmark and Norway were introduced at the request of the Public Health Agency, and the government tends to closely follow the guidance of the agency on coronavirus-related decisions.

Ban on entry from the UK

Sweden introduced a ban on entry from the UK, which like the Norway and Denmark bans is in place until March 31st. The same exceptions apply as to the entry ban for Norway, including people who live or work in Sweden. 

On Tuesday, The Local asked state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell whether these bans were still reasonable, and he replied: “We have a continuing discussion about that with our foreign ministry, who are the ones having these regulations in place. Unfortunately it is not only the UK variant that makes us concerned about travel between different countries, there are also other variants out there. But we might adapt, in collaboration with the foreign ministry, there might be some adaptations to those [travel rules] later on this month.”

The report from Swedish radio about the Public Health Agency’s request to lift the Norway and Denmark bans does not mention the UK ban.

It is not clear what will happen for travel from the UK to Sweden after March 31st. The ban may not be lifted if the government decides that travel from the UK poses a particularly high risk.

The UK is no longer a member or the EU or EEA, so if the UK-specific ban is lifted but the ban on travel from non-EU/EEA countries is extended, travel from the UK would be covered by the latter ban.

That entry ban includes an exception for British citizens who are covered by Article 10 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, in other words those who were legally resident in any EU country before December 31st, 2020. Brits living in the EU and their family members could therefore travel to Sweden for any purpose, but British citizens who do not fall under one of the exemptions could not.

Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Testing and isolation

If you travel to Sweden, you are expected to isolate fully for at least seven days on arrival, not coming into contact with anyone else. This applies no matter which country you are returning from.

There are also testing requirements, with everyone arriving to Sweden from overseas expected to take two Covid-19 tests in total. Foreign citizens who are not resident in Sweden need to present a negative Covid-19 test no older than 48 hours in order to be allowed into the country, with a few exceptions including for essential workers or people travelling for urgent family reasons. People who are exempt, including Swedish citizens and residents, should get a Covid-19 test as soon as possible on arrival if they were not tested before travelling.

As well as the test before travel or on arrival, everyone who returns to Sweden after overseas travel is supposed to then get a second test five days after arriving.

Travel from Sweden overseas

The above bans are entry bans, so relate to travel to Sweden from overseas. There is no ban on leaving Sweden to travel elsewhere, however the Foreign Ministry has recommended against all non-essential travel to Denmark, Norway, the UK, and all countries outside the EU/EEA. This can have implications on things like your travel insurance validity and access to consular support if you travel despite the recommendation, particularly if for example you fall ill abroad or your return home is delayed.

What about domestic travel?

There is currently no national recommendation to avoid domestic journeys of a certain length, although several regions have recommendations to avoid non-essential travel to, from or within that area.

The recommendations also ask everyone to travel as safely as possible if they do need to travel, meaning using private transport where you don’t come into contact with other people, or if that’s not possible, using a means of transport where you can book a seat and avoiding busy times. You should also have a plan of how to isolate and/or return home without coming into close contact with anyone at all in the event that you develop symptoms during your trip.

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