Reader question: What does the UK’s traffic light system mean for travel to Sweden?

Reader question: What does the UK’s traffic light system mean for travel to Sweden?
A plane comes in to land at Heathrow Airport in London. Photo: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
As the UK government prepares to roll out a new system of "traffic light" travel rules, here's what it means for people travelling between Sweden and the UK.

The UK government has announced that a traffic light system for categorising countries based on Covid-19 risk will be in place from May 17th at the earliest.  

This involves giving each country a designation – red, amber or green – based on data including case numbers, the rate of infection and vaccination in the country.

What’s happening in Sweden? 

Sweden’s case numbers are currently fairly stable but considerably higher per capita than many other European countries. Total cases have nearly reached one million, and the healthcare sector is strained.

Vaccinations are ongoing, and as of May 5th, 2,710,287 people had been given at least one dose of a vaccine, and 775,438 had been given both doses.

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Can I go to the UK from Sweden? 

We don’t yet know exactly what category Sweden is in. 

Not being on the green list doesn’t necessarily mean that travel isn’t allowed – it just means that people will have to quarantine and take a test on arrival in the UK.

  • Red list – arrivals have to quarantine in specially-designated quarantine hotels for 10 days. The traveller is liable for the cost of these, which is up to £1,700, plus the cost of testing after arrival. A negative PCR test is required to enter the country. This is expected to be based on the UK’s current red list, which is restricted to UK/Irish nationals, those with residency in the UK and certain professions, and is reserved for the highest-risk countries (you can find the current red list here, which does not include Sweden).
  • Amber list – arrivals have to quarantine for 10 days but can do so in a location of their choice including the home of a friend or family member. Arrivals also have to pay for travel-testing kits which cost around £200 per person. A PCR test is required to enter the country. This is the regime currently in place for most arrivals.
  • Green list – no quarantine is necessary, but a negative PCR test is required to enter the country, plus another test on or before day 2 of their stay. 

A “green watchlist” will also be in place, for countries that might fall in-between criteria for amber or green. 

Can I come to Sweden from the UK? 

As of January 1st, 2021, the UK is treated the same as other non-EU/EEA countries in regards to Covid-19 travel rules.

Since March last year there has been a ban on travel to Sweden from non-EU/EEA countries (Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican count as EU/EEA countries for this purpose). This now includes the UK.

But the EU Commission is proposing an easing of restrictions on non-essential travel.

Under the plans, anyone who has received the last dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand will be allowed to travel without a test or having to quarantine. Border restrictions are however up to each member state, and Sweden has made no decision yet.

It is important to note that the entry ban currently in place is dependent on the country you travel from, not nationality or residency.

The requirement to show a negative Covid-19 test result applies only to adults over 18. It does not apply to Swedish citizens, nor to people who hold a residence permit (including if you’re moving for the first time), have urgent family reasons, work in the healthcare transport sector, work in goods transport, work in international police or customs work, are entitled to humanitarian protection, or who need urgent healthcare in Sweden. Brits who have applied for post-Brexit residence status in Sweden are also exempt.

Even if you aren’t legally obliged to show a negative test on the border, everyone apart from young children is strongly recommended to get tested on the day of arrival in Sweden and again five days after that, and to self-isolate for at least seven days. You can arrange a test by calling Sweden’s healthcare service 1177 and explaining that you have returned from overseas travel.

Proof of vaccination isn’t currently a factor in whether you are allowed to enter Sweden, but the EU proposal may change that. 

There are several plans for “vaccine passes” under way which would allow vaccinated people to travel more easily. The European Union is also working on developing a common framework for “digital certificates” among member states, with the bloc’s tourism chief announcing last month that the certificates should be available within “two to three months”.

Sweden’s entry ban for non-EU/EEA travellers is currently in place until May 31st, but it has been extended several times in the past year, often at relatively short notice.

Member comments

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  1. It will be very interesting to see if the Swedish government lift the ban on travel from the UK to Sweden after May 31st as not being Swedish or managing to achieve one of their criteria this stops me from visiting my girlfriend which i feel is unfair.

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