“Vaccine passes are a measure that we see as necessary,” Karin Tegmark Wisell, the agency’s director general, said at a press conference announcing the move, pointing to the rising infection rates elsewhere in Europe. “We cannot just kick back and hope for the best”.
Sweden’s culture minister, Amanda Lind, stressed that the government was not enforcing vaccine passes on those holding larger indoor events, only allowing them to dispense with restrictions if they decided required them.
“The restrictions that would otherwise apply to an activity are eased if the organiser can guarantee that the participants are vaccinated,” she said.
She said that the government had long been mulling requiring vaccine certificates, which have long been a tool used elsewhere in Europe.
“Being able to use vaccination certificates is something the government has been preparing for a long time. You have previously heard me talk about vaccination certificates as a “plan B”. Now that situation is here,” Lind said.
How will Sweden use the vaccine pass?
The Swedish Public Health Agency said in a press release on Wednesday afternoon that they intended to bring back restrictions for all indoor events with more than 100 participants from December 1st.
These restrictions might include a limit on the maximum number of people allowed to attend per square meter, or a minimum distance requirement between different groups of people attending. At the press conference, Tegmark Wisell would not give any further details, only saying that the restrictions would “be similar” to those in place during earlier waves of infection.
The new restrictions will apply to theatres, concerts, cinemas, night clubs, sports events, dance performances, funfairs, and amusement parks, markets, conferences, demonstrations, and religious services.
Institutions and event organisers will be excused the new restrictions if they require that all those attending have shown a valid vaccination certificate.
The possibility of requiring a vaccine pass is not currently expected to be extended to restaurants, bars or similar establishments, as has been the case in France, Denmark and other countries — so long as they do not hold dance events.
What will be required for a vaccination certificate to be valid?
Unlike similar health or Covid passes brought in elsewhere in Europe, Sweden’s requirement is for vaccination and vaccination alone, with those who have received their final vaccine dose at least two weeks before attending an event counted as fully vaccinated. Proof of a negative test result or evidence of recovery from a Covid-19 infection will not be enough to enter events requiring a certificate.
What has the reaction been?
The reaction has largely been positive, although the Swedish Agency for Support to Faith Communities, has said that the requirement to show a vaccination certificate to attend a religious service might go against Sweden’s laws on freedom of worship
“One aspect of freedom of religion is that you should be able to take part in a religious gathering without needing to show any legitimation,” said Isak Reichel, the agency’s director.
How are Covid vaccine passes currently used?
Unlike in other countries, Covid vaccine passes in Sweden are currently only used for travel purposes. They are used as part of Swedish border restrictions to provide proof of vaccination, recovery from infection with Covid-19, or proof of a negative test.
This differs from other countries in Europe, such as France, where they are used when accessing cafés, bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms, among other things.
Germany, similarly, has 3G (or in some cases, 2G) rules for most public indoor spaces like restaurants, cinemas, shows and events. These rules mean that visitors must be either vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen), or tested (getestet) – although the latter is no longer accepted in some areas, in a bid to encourage the 33 percent of Germany’s population who remain unvaccinated to get their injections.
What are Sweden’s political parties saying?
In a survey of Sweden’s parliamentary parties carried out by public broadcaster SVT in September, the majority of parties were open to the idea of introducing vaccine passes domestically. But even parties who were positive to the idea did not agree on how such a vaccine pass should be used, with the majority of those positive seeming to only approve of the idea for larger events, rather than for entry to restaurants and cafés.
Parties open to the idea were the Liberal Party, the Moderates and the Christian Democrats, with the Christian Democrats saying it should only be used for larger events, and the Liberals stating that it should be up to organisers to decide whether to use the system for individual events.
The Social Democrats and the Centre Party both said it might be a good idea, with the Social Democrats saying the government were “looking in to the question of using it nationally for larger events”, and the Centre Party “not wanting to rule out” using it for larger events, but stating that they were not “undividedly positive” to the idea, given the threat a demand on a valid vaccine pass could pose to individual freedoms.
The Left Party were the only party completely against the idea, saying it would be difficult to implement “in a way which would protect people’s privacy”. The Green Party and the Sweden Democrats stated in the questionnaire that they had no standpoint on the issue.
What about people who can’t currently get a Swedish vaccine pass?
As The Local has previously reported, the Swedish vaccine pass system is not yet available for everyone – those who were vaccinated abroad or who do not have a personnummer (personal identity number) or samordningsnummer (coordination number) still face issues accessing the service. With the government stating that these passes will be accessible to all “by year-end”, this could cause problems if vaccine passes were introduced before this issue is resolved.
Amanda Lind, culture minister, advised in the press conference that those without an e-ID such as BankID may be subject to longer waiting times when ordering their vaccine passes, but that there will be a system for those without BankID to order their vaccine pass.