Social Democrat Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg and police chief Anders Thornberg outlined the details of Sweden's new travel restrictions at a press conference on Wednesday.
They follow a request by the Public Health Agency, following the spread of new variants of coronavirus.
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There is currently a ban on non-essential travel to Sweden from most countries outside the EU, and from Denmark and Norway, but there are certain exceptions, including for people who live or work in Sweden.
These rules are generally still in place, and the new test requirement comes on top of that.
This means that even people travelling from another EU country will have to show a negative Covid-19 test, or be turned away. This has not generally been the case in Sweden at any point throughout the pandemic.
The new rules come into force on Saturday, February 6th, and the Public Health Agency is expected to issue new guidelines regarding what kind of tests will be accepted, but they should be no older than 48 hours. People younger than 18 will not have to get tested, and the rules will be more flexible for cross-border commuters.
Other categories of travellers will also be exempt from the new rules. These include for example Swedish citizens and foreign nationals who live in Sweden. They are however still recommended to get tested when they arrive, and again on the fifth day after arrival – as well as quarantine for seven days after arriving in Sweden.
Damberg said that the Public Health Agency had been “very clear” on these recommendations when asked by The Local's reporter Catherine Edwards how the government would ensure that those exempt from the legal requirement still get tested and isolate.
“In Sweden we've seen that these kinds of quarantine recommendations have been quite substantial, so [the Public Health Agency] has not suggested anything else but to on a voluntary basis recommend this,” he added.
The new rules are being introduced out of concern of the spread of new variants of the coronavirus, among others the B117 which was first discovered in the UK. But randomised testing carried out in some Swedish regions has shown that the variant already appears to be increasing in Sweden, and The Local asked whether the government would consider bringing in restrictions or recommendations on travel within Sweden.
Damberg said the Public Health Agency had “not put forward that kind of question to the government”.
“They also have a broad range of measures to introduce if they feel that they want to do it. And local and regional authorities can do a lot, and they are doing a lot,” he said, referring to for example the town of Strömstad near the Norwegian border, which is rolling out a series of extra local restrictions due to a rise in the number of new cases.
“So we stand ready to make new decisions if necessary,” said Damberg.
The government is expected to publish more in-depth information about exactly which categories of travellers are exempt from the test requirement. The Local will report further as soon as there is more information available.