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COVID-19

Sweden updates Covid-19 testing and isolating rules for travellers

Everyone who enters Sweden from a country outside the Nordic region should continue to get tested for Covid-19 after arriving, after the Public Health Agency updated its recommendation.

Sweden updates Covid-19 testing and isolating rules for travellers
Testing is available at some airports in Sweden, like the booth at Arlanda pictured here. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

Travellers who are not fully vaccinated and arrive from outside the Nordics (Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland) should avoid contact with others for one week after arriving (including, for example, not visiting shops, using public transport or having visitors to their home) and should take a test soon as possible after arriving.

This applies to both Swedish and foreign citizens, regardless of the reason for travel, although children under six and people who have received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine at least two weeks before arrival in Sweden are exempt. However, even people who are fully vaccinated should get tested if they experience any symptoms of the virus – this applies regardless of whether they have recently been abroad.

A separate guideline for travellers from certain countries outside the EU to take a second test and isolate for one week on arrival was previously in place until August 31st, but has now been scrapped. This means that the same recommendations, to take one test on arrival and be “careful” about social contacts, now apply to all people who arrive in Sweden from outside the Nordic countries.

From September 1st, people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and recovered within the last six months are also exempt. The current guidelines are in place until at least October 31st.

“Several countries have a greater spread of infection than Sweden, and in contract tracing work we see that a relatively high proportion of Covid-19 cases are still linked to travel abroad,” the Public Health Agency’s deputy state epidemiologist Karin Tegmark Wisell said in a statement explaining why the testing recommendation had been extended.

Tests are free for people arriving in Sweden from overseas, and can be arranged by ordering one from 1177.se or using a drop-in centre. The 1177 website for your region (you can pick your region using the drop-down “välj region” menu at the top) should have more information, and Sweden’s larger airports also offer tests for some arriving passengers. The 1177 website for your region should also tell you how to book a test if you don’t normally live in Sweden and don’t have a Swedish personal ID number.

Unlike many countries but in line with Sweden’s strategy of using fewer legal restrictions, the recommendations to test and isolate are not legally enforced, but it is still not considered optional.

Even people who are exempt from taking the tests on arrival are still expected to be “careful” after travelling from overseas, according to the Public Health Agency. This includes paying close attention even to mild symptoms, keeping a distance from other people, and avoiding meeting people who belong to Covid-19 risk groups.

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said. 

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