These are Sweden’s guidelines for the winter sports break

These are Sweden's guidelines for the winter sports break
A sign in the Idre resort warns people to stay at home if sick and keep a distance of at least one metre. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
With Sweden's winter school break approaching, the Public Health Agency has issued guidelines on how to limit the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 during the holiday.

Depending on where you are in the country, the sports break takes place at some time between February 15th and March 12th, lasting a week. The breaks are as always staggered, partly to avoid congestion on the roads and at winter sports resorts.

Usually, many families spend the break travelling to mountain resorts for a week of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports.

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Can I travel within Sweden?

The Public Health Agency has not asked people to avoid domestic travel, but you should try to do this as safely as possible. The safest way to travel is through private transport where you don't come into contact with other people, in other words by driving. If that's not possible, you should use a method of transport that allows you to book a seat.

“The risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 increases the more people you meet,” explains the agency. “It is therefore important to think about limiting the number of new close contacts. Only socialise in a small circle. Keep in mind that the risks of spreading the infection are higher during time spent indoors, for example in shared accommodation.”

If you test positive for the coronavirus or experience symptoms consistent with the virus, you should not be travelling or coming into contact with anyone at all. This means you should have a plan of what to do if you develop symptoms while visiting another region; you would need to be able to stay fully isolated or travel home in a way that didn't mean making new contacts (in other words, not using any form of public transport).

It's also important to stay up to date with any regional coronavirus measures. For example, Västerbotten, Västra Götaland, Gävleborg and Stockholm have all introduced regional measures, including advising people to wear face masks at all times on public transport and in close-contact situations.

Can I travel overseas?

For many international families, the break is a chance to visit family, while it has also become popular in recent years to travel to the Alps rather than to Nordic ski resorts.

Sweden's Foreign Ministry recommends against all unnecessary travel to countries outside the EU/EEA, as well as to the UK, Denmark and Norway. This is not a legally binding ban and it is up to individuals to decide if their travel is necessary.

If you do travel overseas, you will need to isolate on your return to Sweden. This applies to everyone, even though people who live in Sweden aren't required to have a negative Covid-19 test to re-enter the country. After overseas travel to any country, you should isolate for at least seven days, which includes not going to work or school. 

Can I do winter sports?

Yes, but perhaps not in the same way as normal.

Individuals are responsible for ensuring that crowding doesn't occur, as well as businesses, so look out for signs marking distance or advising of the maximum number of visitors, for example at ski equipment rentals, ice skates or queues for ski lifts.

If you want to do winter sports, it's a good idea to research beforehand to find out if things like a pre-booking or queue system apply.

Can I meet or visit friends?

Everyone in Sweden is supposed to be socialising only within a small circle, and the government has said that should include no more than eight people total. This means that as a general rule, you should not be adding new people to this circle or spending time with people who have not been part of your circle.

The Public Health Agency says “do not share accommodation or socialise indoors with those outside your smaller circle”.

So what's the responsible decision?

This is difficult to say. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said that one reason there is no blanket ban against non-essential regional travel is because crowding in indoor urban environments, like a shopping mall, is potentially riskier than having large numbers at ski resorts.

Stockholm's infectious disease doctor Maria Rotzén Östlund warned Stockholmers not to travel.

Whether you stay at home or travel, the important thing is to follow the recommendations and public health advice as closely as you can. That means limiting your close contacts as much as possible, not meeting new people outside your household and small circle of existing contacts, and limiting use of public transport and time spent in indoor public environments as much as possible.


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