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COVID-19

Sweden rolls out new travel restrictions ahead of Christmas holidays

Sweden is set to introduce travel restrictions from the Nordic countries ahead of Christmas over concerns of a rising number of Covid infections.

Sweden rolls out new travel restrictions ahead of Christmas holidays
Police checks on the border between Denmark and Sweden in early February. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

From December 21st, people travelling to Sweden from Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland will be required to show a valid Covid pass, said the government on Thursday.

“We’re seeing an increased spread of infection in Europe but also in our neighbouring countries, and in Sweden a Covid pass is currently required for entry from all countries apart from the Nordics,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told Swedish newswire TT.

Under current rules, everyone travelling to Sweden needs to show either an EU vaccine certificate or a vaccine certificate from a so-called “approved” country, alternatively a negative test no older than 72 hours or proof of recovery from Covid-19 – the exact rules depend on which country you’re travelling from, and some categories of travellers are exempt from the rules.

Today, everyone travelling from Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland is also exempt from the entry rules – which until now has meant that many non-EU nationals who are banned from entering Sweden directly have been able to do so via one of the Nordic countries.

But from December 21st, the Covid pass rules will apply to the Nordic countries too.

Sweden currently has the lowest rate of new Covid-19 infections in the Nordics. It has one of the lowest testing rates, but it also has a comparatively low number of hospitalisations. That said, the number of new cases is on a sharp increase in Sweden, too.

Swedish Health Minister Lena Hallengren and Public Health Agency director-general Karin Tegmark Wisell spoke about the new entry restrictions at a press conference on Thursday morning. They added that the Public Health Agency, with immediate effect, urges everyone who travels to Sweden from any country is advised to get tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible after arriving, even if you’re vaccinated.

Border commuters only need to get tested once a week, and other people who cross the border frequently – such as children who move between parents on opposite sides of the border – are also exempt from the recommendation to get tested every time they travel to Sweden. Children under the age of six are also exempt from the testing recommendation.

The government has been preparing new legislation that would extend Sweden’s vaccine pass scheme to venues such as restaurants and long-distance trains, but this is still going through the legislative process and there was no news about it at the press conference.

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EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden’s airport chaos?

Stockholm Arlanda Airport is once again suffering hour-long queues for security due to a surge in travel and personnel shortages. What can you do if you miss your flight?

EXPLAINED: What can I do if I miss my flight due to Sweden's airport chaos?

What’s the situation at Arlanda over the Ascension Day weekend? 

According to the airport operator Svedavia, the worst peak for the long weekend is probably over. “Today looks good with no long waiting time at Arlanda,” Ellen Laurin, the company’s press officer, told The Local on Friday. “Yesterday morning [Thusday], we had a morning peak before nine in the morning, and the rest of the day was OK.” 

According to Swedavia’s website, waiting times at security were less than five minutes on Friday morning.  

However, she warned that there could once again be big queues on Sunday when those who have travelled to Sweden over the long weekend make their way home. 

“Sunday is a big travel day when people will fly home again. There could be queues at peak times,” she said. “We recommend that passengers have a close contact with their airline for information about their flight. It is important to have extra time at the airport and to be prepared.  

READ ALSO: What’s behind the queues at Arlanda Airport? 

Which airports in other countries have problems? 

Arlanda is not the only airport facing problems due to delays staffing up again after the pandemic. On Friday morning, Twitter users were complaining of two-hour queues at the border control at Heathrow Airport in the UK, while at the UK’s Manchester Airport, passengers were reporting queues for security of up to two hours on Thursday. 

Dublin Airport is also facing regular two-hour queues at security. Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport had a 1km security queue on Thursday, pushing the Dutch airline KLM to cancel flights. 

Can I get compensation or insurance payments if I missed my flight due to the queues? 

The SAS airline has already underlined that it is their customers’ responsibility to make sure that they arrive at the airport in sufficiently good time to make their flight. 

“To be certain you can come with us, you should be in good time, and if you are in good time, you will manage to get your flight,” she told state broadcaster SR. “It is always the customer’s responsibility to be on your way as early as is necessary.”

People who miss flights are also likely to struggle to get payouts from travel insurance, warned Gabriella Hallberg, an expert on travel insurance at the Swedish Consumers’ Insurance Bureau. 

“If you’re at the airport and are hit by security controls that take a very long time, they consider that it is the consumer themselves who have not planned their journey,” she told SR

She said that it might be possible to find an insurance company that is willing to insure against flights missed due to security queues. 

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