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Covid-19 pass: How much of an outlier is Sweden in not giving vaccinated people extra freedoms?

Sweden does not currently plan to use a 'Covid pass' or 'health pass' to regulate entry to public places. We've compared the Swedish stance to other countries across Europe.

Covid-19 pass: How much of an outlier is Sweden in not giving vaccinated people extra freedoms?
Sweden is unusual in requiring neither proof of Covid-19 vaccination nor a negative test for entry to events and indoor dining. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

Across the EU, proof of vaccination can be used for travel between countries, usually with the possible alternative of showing a negative Covid-19 test and often quarantining on arrival. But many countries also use vaccination status as a factor in determining access to facilities like dining, events, shops and gyms.

In Sweden this is not the case, with proof of vaccination not required at any public venues or for events.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told The Local in mid-July there are no plans to recommend it either, but Trade and Industry Minister Ibrahim Baylan added at the time: “It is very dependent on how the development [of the virus] goes […] it is not possible to rule it out, of course.”

This means the only difference for fully vaccinated people in Sweden, outside international travel, is that symptom-free people who received their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior are exempt from self-isolation if someone they live with has Covid-19, and people who belong to a risk group and who received a first vaccine dose at least three weeks earlier may be able to return to work if their job cannot be done from home.

Of the European Union’s 27 countries, The Local has identified six in addition to Sweden which are not currently using a Covid-19 vaccine pass or other proof of vaccination for access to domestic activities: Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Malta, Poland, and Romania.

Belgium however will introduce its version, called the Covid Safe Ticket, from August 13th, after which it will be used for entry to large events, and ministers in both Finland and Romania have said they are considering making it a requirement for certain activities, specifically for events and restaurants in Finland and malls and restaurants in Romania.

In Malta, while not requiring proof of vaccination to enter public venues, visitors from many countries may only enter the country if fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (with no possibility to show a negative test or proof of recovery instead, as is the case in Sweden and most of the EU).

That leaves Bulgaria, Poland and Sweden as the EU’s only three countries where restrictions are the same for vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. And in Poland this has not always been the case; previous limits on some kinds of events excluded fully vaccinated people for example.

As for the other Nordic countries, Norway’s domestic Covid pass is used to access large events such as concerts, festivals and football matches in addition to domestic cruises and tours, while Iceland’s Covid-19 restrictions (recently tightened following a sharp rise in cases) are not based on vaccination status, similar to Sweden.

Of the 20 EU countries that are using a vaccine pass or proof of vaccination to regulate access to activities, there are wide variations in how they are implemented. The passes, which have varying names including green card, health pass, corona pass or vaccine pass, can be used but restrictions usually allow for non-vaccinated people to show proof of recent recovery from Covid-19 or a recent negative test result instead. In most countries, testing is available for free.

Austria, Denmark, France, and Italy are the countries where these passes are most widely used, required for a range of activities such as indoor dining, gyms, cultural venues like museums and cinemas, hairdressers, and some long-distance travel. Some German regions have similar restrictions.

Across the continent, indoor dining is one of the most common areas where a pass is required. In Latvia, it is required for indoor restaurants (as well as gyms, cinemas and theatres), although unvaccinated people may dine outdoors, while Lithuania has similar rules but for the unvaccinated service is takeaway only, and in Luxembourg non-vaccinated diners must follow restrictions on distancing, wearing face masks, and limits on total numbers. Cyrpus also requires its SafePass to visit dining establishments as well as malls and some cultural or sports facilities.

In Spain the passes are currently only being used at a regional level, required for bars, cafes and restaurants in two Spanish regions (Galicia and the Canary Islands), and in Germany the rules also differ by region but typically a pass is required for indoor dining or access to venues like gyms. A pass is also required for indoor dining at weekends in Portugal’s hardest-hit regions, and nationwide it is required for some sports activities and to stay in a hotel.

In the Netherlands, many restrictions have been lifted but only businesses that check for proof of vaccination may open to full capacity. In Estonia, proof of vaccination (or of a recent negative Covid-19 test) is only required for attendance at large events; in Hungary it is required for large events; and in Croatia the same proof is required for both large events and nightclubs.  The Czech Republic does not have a domestic Covid-19 pass as such, but also requires proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for some cultural activities like theatres.

Although Sweden is an outlier when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccine pass, this could be seen as a continuation of a trend where Sweden has preferred fewer, broader measures that apply equally to the population than strict lockdowns. Restrictions on opening times for bars and restaurants, and recommendations to wear face masks on public transport, for example, were only brought in last winter and have now been removed entirely.

Sweden also stands out for not having an app to assist with contact tracing efforts, where people are notified if someone they were in close proximity to tests positive, as well as for not making Covid-19 tests freely available to symptom-free people and therefore having low testing rates compared to many EU nations.

The latest reports from the European Centre for Disease Control show Sweden’s current rate of infection is fairly average within the EU, the 11th lowest after for a long time being one of the countries with the highest rates. In the 14 days up to July 26th, 33 cases were reported per 100,000 residents. That’s higher than Bulgaria (13) and Poland (3), the other countries not using vaccine passes domestically at all, but it does not put it among the countries with the highest infection rates.

Member comments

  1. How much of an outlier is Sweden in not giving vaccinated people their rights back? Fixed it for you.

  2. Echoing Niklas, no government has the right to take away freedoms on the basis of medical history.

  3. @patrickussher I can only agree with you.

    In my opinion, the Swedish government is acting with the right sense of proportion and is weighing up the risks of colateral damage very carefully. Everyone is free to get vaccinated if they feel safer. It should remain a voluntary decision.

  4. Each country should make its decision based on its circumstances regarding the virus and not worry too much about what happens elsewhere. I would prefer everyone to be vaccinated but it is not unlawful for not having a jab, so there is no need for people to carry any kind of pass around with them, unless they want to.
    If each country decides to make having the jab compulsory, that is a different situation and a pass would be the next step; but that would create a public outcry in every country. It won’t happen.
    Sweden is doing the right thing but, to encourage those reluctant to have the vaccine, it needs to give back the freedoms to those who have been vaccinated.

  5. Until they sort out vaccine passes for people without personnummers, they can’t reasonably prevent entry to bars and other venues. I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise of asking for proof of vaccination for things like concerts, but to discriminate based on things like citizenship and/or employment status is ludicrous. A non-EU national, for example, without a permanent visa and a job can almost be guaranteed to either not have a personnummer (instead, a coordination number) or a bank account with BankID, at the very least for the first few months of their time in Sweden. And that’s if you aren’t caught up with the months-long delays in Skatteverket issuing personnummers.

    People without personnummers are already at a disadvantage – it was ridiculously difficult to get vaccinated in the first place when all of the newly released vaccination appointments are snapped up online before the phone lines would open on a Monday morning. Now all I have is a card that says I’ve been vaccinated, but will not be accepted on its’ own by other countries within the EU. And who knows how this information will transfer to a Covid pass if and when this is available to me – how much extra work and time will I need to put in to have everything sorted out? I have a feeling it will be easier to just get dosed again rather than deal with the bureaucracy.

  6. On another (air)line, flying from Malmö to Umeå via Stockholm. Signs to use masks in the terminal and in the planes. At least 30% of the people practicing their personal version of skinny-dipping (no mask nudity), even inside the aircraft, cabin attendants included. What kind of a joke is this? honestly. You know what, tell me what happens if I pay 30% less of my taxes. Just because I feel that is what is due. Big disappointment to be fair, I used to regard “nordic” countries as proper rule followers, it seems to me a cage aux folles sometimes, or very selfish guys: “got covid, don’t give a toss..” … “I am vaccinated, don’t care …”I am young sod off with the others” . Or a lot of ignorance pushed by Dr. Tegnele and the Govt. who did not really explained masks are use to protect the others, rather than themselves. It is a small “sacrifice” after all.

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Sweden opens up fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine for over-80s

Sweden's Public Health Agency is now recommending a fourth vaccine dose for care home residents, recipients of at-home care, and over 80s, to be given at least four months after dose three.

Sweden opens up fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine for over-80s

Despite recently removing almost all Covid-19-related restrictions, the pandemic is still ongoing in Sweden, with the Public Health Agency describing the spread of infection in a press release as “intensive”.

There has also been an increase in the number of cases in groups of the population with an increased risk for serious illness, such as care home residents. 

In addition to this, the immune system’s ability to react to vaccinations and build up long-term protection against the virus becomes less effective with age.

In response to this, the Public Health Agency is now recommending that Swedish regions offer a second booster dose – representing a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – to the following at-risk groups:

  • care home residents
  • recipients of at-home care
  • over 80s

Regions will be able to offer the dose four months after the first booster dose (dose three), at the earliest, starting from next week.

“A booster dose strengthens protection against the virus,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in a statement. “Therefore, we believe that people aged 80 and over will benefit from a second booster dose.”

First booster doses are available for over-18s in all Swedish regions. If you have not had yours yet and want to know how to book in your region, see The Local’s guide HERE.