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What changes about life in Sweden in 2021?

The coronavirus vaccine's on the way, as is the final stage of Brexit. Here are some of the upcoming changes we know about that may affect life in Sweden.

What changes about life in Sweden in 2021?
Sweden is planning several changes to its migration laws. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Coronavirus vaccinations continue

Sweden rolled out coronavirus vaccinations on December 27th, and will first vaccinate people in elderly care homes or those who receive help at home from care workers, together with their carers and people they share a home with.

In total, around 2.6 million Swedes belong to risk groups for the coronavirus, including people aged over 70 and those with certain pre-existing conditions. These people will be next in line for the vaccine after the first three priority groups, followed by the rest of the general population.

The vaccine will be free and voluntary and the goal is to offer the vaccine to Sweden's entire adult population in the first half of 2021. The Local has asked for clarification on exactly what will apply to foreign citizens, but we have been told that the idea is that it will be broadly available to everyone who lives in Sweden.

At the moment there is no information about whether there will be a priority list for the rest of the population, and what this would look like if so. It is Sweden's 21 regions' responsibility to carry out vaccinations, so there may be slight differences around the country based on what best suits the local demographic and operating capacity.

Most EU states started vaccinations on December 27th. Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V Solis

The Brexit transition period ends

Once the post-Brexit transition period comes to an end on December 31st, the UK will become a 'third country'.

Brits who moved to Sweden before the end of 2020 now have until September 30th to apply for 'residence status' to keep their rights to live and work in Sweden. Brits who want to move to Sweden in the future will have to move under the same rules as other non-EU nationals, which generally means first applying for a permit to do so.

In terms of travel, it is complicated because there are several different regulations at play at the moment. First, the future rules on travel in general for Brits, and secondly, temporary travel rules in place during the pandemic.

You can read more here about what general rules of travel will apply to Brits, including passports and length of stay. In terms of the pandemic, there's currently an entry ban in place for Brits, but those who live in Sweden are allowed to return home. There's also a ban on flights from the UK to Sweden in place until January 21st.

Trucks queue to enter the Port of Dover ahead of Christmas. Photo: Gareth Fuller/AP/TT

Sweden's new pandemic law

A new pandemic law that would give the Swedish government increased powers to fight the coronavirus outbreak is being fast-tracked with the aim of pushing it into force within the first two weeks of the year. The Swedish parliament has been recalled from its Christmas recess to process the government's bill in the first week of January. If approved, the temporary law would apply from January 10th until September.

The law is meant to make it easier for the government to make decisions – or delegate such decisions to local authorities when appropriate – on limiting numbers at, or as a last resort closing, shopping centres and other venues, and limiting public transport. People or businesses who break restrictions may be fined.

The government could also make decisions to limit the number of people allowed in for example a park or a public square, but it it could not impose a curfew which would go against Sweden's constitution which protects the right to free movement. The government's next step, if the bill is approved, will be to work out legally binding rules for shops and shopping centres, said ministers the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Expect to see some parliamentary squabbles about the details of the bill at the start of the year.

Sweden's new migration law

Sweden's government is expected to send its new planned migration bill to the Council of Legislation during spring 2021, with the law then scheduled to be voted on in parliament in early summer before coming into effect in July 2021. But the political process is long and winding, and if it doesn't pass, Sweden's migration law will revert back to what it was before the current temporary legislation came into force in 2016.

The law's chief changes are a potential requirement to demonstrate Swedish language skills and civic knowledge before being granted permanent citizenship, slightly easier rules for family reunion, and an exemption from family maintenance requirements for Swedish and EEA citizens. 

Banks will have to handle cash

From January 1st, 2021, a new law comes into force requiring the country's major banks to allow customers to deposit and take out cash from their branches (it technically came into force at the start of 2020, but will only have a real impact on customers from the start of 2021).

Swedish banknotes. Henrik Montgomery/TT

Other questions:

How long will Sweden have to live with coronavirus? 

Even with vaccines arriving in January, Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell does not expect people to be able to return to life as normal until at least the summer. “If everything goes as planned, we can hopefully return to living a little more as we normally do next autumn,” he told Swedish broadcaster TV4 in an interview.  

Will anyone step down over Sweden's handling of the coronavirus pandemic?  

So far Sweden's health minister, Lena Hallengren, the director of the Public Health Agency, Johan Carlson, and Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, have not been faced with strong pressure to resign. Could that change in the new year, if the coronavirus situation continues to grow more serious into January and February, or if Sweden's increasingly combative media uncovers hitherto unknown failings from the authorities?

Will the government survive the year?

Given the weakness of the current government's parliamentary position, it has proven extraordinarily resilient, for two years managing to exploit the fact that though it has a majority against it, that majority is divided between the outer left and right sides of the political spectrum. The biggest threat – that changes to Sweden's LAS employment law would cause the Left party to join the right-wing parties in deposing the government – now seems over. But whether the government makes it to the 2022 election is still an open question.

Member comments

  1. I am a life-long fan of Sweden, having visited and lived there over the last fifty years. I think the time has come, though, for Swedes to realise that unless they all have the vaccine, if offered, they should have it and not be so naïve about the virus and its potential effects. It is killing people in the thousands in Sweden, just as it is killing people all over the world in their millions.
    I don’t think anyone from the government should lose their job over the handling of the pandemic. However, there is a need to ramp up the restrictions of what the general public should and should not be doing when outside in the towns and cities.
    Socially distance, wear a facemask and wash hands. This message needs to be put across much more forcibly because not everyone seems to realise just how dangeroud the situation is.

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