Sweden updates rules on travel from Denmark, Norway and the UK

Sweden has announced changes to its rules on entering the country from March 31st, with special restrictions on Denmark and Norway lifted, and the UK subject to the same rules as other non-EU countries.

Sweden updates rules on travel from Denmark, Norway and the UK
There are changes to which groups of people can travel to Sweden from Norway, Denmark and the UK. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Sweden on January 26th imposed emergency restrictions on travel from Denmark, Norway and the UK, partly due to outbreaks of the infectious B.1.1.7 variant in Norway and the UK. In Denmark the motivation was that many businesses and restaurants were closed there, presenting a risk of cross-border travel.

“After a detailed analysis of the Public Health Agency’s proposals, we consider that the especially strict restrictions for travel from Norway and Denmark can be removed without presenting an increased risk of transmission,” said Swedish Interior Minister Mikael Damberg.

Travel from Norway and Denmark

From March 31st, people travelling from Denmark and Norway will be treated like other EU citizens and therefore are allowed to travel to Sweden for any reason, so long as they can show a negative coronavirus test less than 48 hours old. This means they can come to Sweden for any reason, such as visiting friends, staying at their summer house, or for tourism purposes for example — but they should still follow Sweden’s rules for arriving travellers, which includes isolating completely for seven days on arrival.

Under the tighter restrictions in place until March 31st, travel was only possible if the traveller could prove they met certain exemptions, for example if they were a Swedish citizen or resident, worked in Sweden, or needed to travel to meet children under 18.

This particularly affected students who commuted to Sweden from Denmark, who were not covered by any exception, and also those whose spouses or partners live in Denmark. Another change to the rules for students means that from March 31st, they will be treated the same as cross-border workers and only need to provide a negative Covid-19 test less than a week old.

Travel from the UK

The special restrictions on travel in the UK, first introduced in December, will also be lifted on March 31st, at which point travel to Sweden from the UK will be treated the same as from other non-EU countries. This means that there is a ban on entry until at least May 31st, but some groups of people are exempt, including for example Swedish citizens or residents.

The exceptions to the entry ban for non-EU countries, which from March 31st will apply to those travelling from the UK, are slightly more generous than those currently in place for UK travellers.

Here are some of the main differences: 

  • Spouses and partners of Swedish citizens, EU/EEA citizens, or residents of Sweden or another EU/EEA country, will be eligible to enter Sweden. Under the special restrictions, the family exception only covered those visiting children under the age of 18, or children under the age of 18 visiting their parents.
  • “Highly qualified workers” whose work cannot be carried out at a distance will be allowed to travel to Sweden, whereas before there was no real window for business travel (apart from for example diplomats, those working for international organisations, seamen and truck drivers).
  • EU or EEA citizens living in the UK will now be able to travel to Sweden, whereas before they were not exempt from the stricter entry ban.

People travelling to Sweden from the UK will need to show they belong to one of the exempt categories, and will also be required to present a negative coronavirus test that is less than 48 hours old, as well as following the rules on testing and isolation which apply to everyone arriving in Sweden from overseas regardless of where they are travelling from. Proof of coronavirus antibodies or full vaccination against the virus is not accepted as an alternative.

Despite the changes, people will not be able to travel from the UK to visit friends or extended family in Sweden, for tourism purposes, or to visit a second home or summer house in Sweden for example, unless they also belong to an exempt category.

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UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway have agreed to extend talks with the SAS airline until midday on Monday, after a deadline on Saturday passed without a deal. SAS flights scheduled for this weekend will fly as normal.

UPDATE: SAS pilots extend strike talks until midday on Monday

The Swedish pilots’ union SPF and other unions have been negotiating for weeks, with the deadline for a strike extended from midnight on Friday, to 11am on Saturday morning, and now until midday on Monday.

“We need to sleep, no one has slept with us for a very long time,” SAS’s chief negotiator, Marianne Hernæs, told Sweden’s TT newswire.

“We’ll meet again tomorrow. Now I am going home and sleeping, I have not slept for many hours,” Keld Bækkelund Hansen, leader of the Danish trade union Dansk Metal, told Denmark’s Ritzau newswire. 

Hernæs said that the two sides were still “extremely far away from one another” when it came to their positions. 

On June 9, the pilot unions of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark submitted their notice to strike on June 29th, with the strike then postponed until July 1st, then again until July 2nd, and now until Monday the 4th. If negotiations do not succeed, 900 pilots could go on strike at midnight.

Flights from SAS subsidiaries, SAS Connect, SAS Link, Cityjet Xfly and Air Baltic were unlikely to be directly affected by the pilot strike.

The SAS management and SPF have been in intensive negotiations for several weeks on a new collective agreement.

The Swedish pilot union believes that SAS is circumventing the right to re-employment by using staff from two subsidiaries as temporary labourers. 

Some 560 pilots who were laid off during the pandemic have not been re-employed.

After negotiations continued all night last night, the situation remains unclear but is progressing, according to the chief negotiator.

“We regret this situation we are in but we actually try everything we can,” says Marianne Hernæs.

Harsh criticism

On Friday, Norwegian put heavy pressure on SAS when the Norwegian pilot union threatened to drive the company into bankruptcy.

The Swedish pilot union also sharply criticized SAS’s negotiating position on Friday.

“An employer who tries to organize away from employer responsibility and agreements entered into by starting a letterbox company has nothing to do with the Swedish labor market and lacks justification for existence”, Martin Lindgren, chairman of the SAS section at the Swedish Pilot Association, said in a written comment to TT.