UPDATED: Ten Covid rules to be aware of in Sweden this Christmas

UPDATED: Ten Covid rules to be aware of in Sweden this Christmas
Swedish border police checking vaccine passes and other travel documents. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
A series of new recommendations and restrictions are being rolled out in Sweden for the Christmas period, and negative tests for all foreign tourists are also in the pipeline. Here's The Local's guide to some of the key points and links to where you can get more information.

What you need to know about travelling to Sweden

Foreign nationals travelling to Sweden currently have to show a valid Covid-19 vaccine pass to enter the country, alternatively a negative test or proof of recovery in the past six months. The test should be an antigen test or a PCR/NAAT and be issued in Swedish, English, Danish, Norwegian or French.

There are also a few subsets of rules to be aware of, depending on which category of traveller you fall into:

In some cases, for example if you’re a Swedish citizen or resident, you are exempt from these requirements. Others should be aware that they be even more restrictive depending on which country you travel from, with non-essential travel from some countries banned altogether.

You can read more on The Local, but we also advise you read up on the specific rules that apply to you on the government’s website or in the police’s frequently asked questions before you travel. Note that a previous “loophole” which allowed people to travel from Denmark, Norway, Finland or Iceland to Sweden for any reason without showing any Covid documents closed on December 21st.

In addition to this, the government will be introducing a new and stricter requirement for all foreigners travelling to Sweden as tourists to show a negative test under 48 hours old in order to enter the country. This will affect them regardless of vaccination status and apply to people over 12 years old. This will come into effect on December 28th, so after Christmas Eve but before New Year’s Eve.

What you need to know about testing recommendations

The above rules state what Covid documents you may or may not need to present at the border in order to be allowed to enter the country. But it’s important to know that there are additional testing guidelines for almost everyone which apply after you’ve entered Sweden.

So on top of the above rules, nearly all travellers arriving in Sweden are also recommended to take a Covid-19 test as soon as possible after arrival, preferably on the same day. This is regardless of whether or not you are a Swedish citizen, live in Sweden, had to show a negative test to get into the country, are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 infection the last six months.

You are advised to be extra careful and keep a distance from other people – especially people in risk groups, including over-70s – while waiting for your test result, and be especially attentive to Covid-19 symptoms, but you are not required or recommended to self-isolate completely.

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See also on The Local:

Tests are free for international arrivals and for anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19. You can find out how to order them in your region by going to the 1177.se website and clicking “välj region” at the top of the page. If you don’t have a Swedish digital ID, it is possible that you have to book an appointment at a doctor’s office to get tested; be aware that you may have to wait a few days, so if you already know that you’re going to have to book a test it may make sense to book an appointment ahead of travelling. You should also brace yourself for the fact that you may have to wait another few days to get a result back on your test – waiting times are several days in many parts of Sweden.

The only people who are exempt from the recommendations to get a Covid-19 test after arriving in Sweden are children under preschool age and people who travel frequently across the border, for example children who live alternately with parents in different countries and study or work commuters (who are recommended to instead get tested at least once a week).

If you develop symptoms of Covid, however mild, you should get tested as soon as possible (even if you tested negative after arriving in Sweden) and self-isolate while waiting for the result – that goes for everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve arrived from abroad.

What you need to know about public transport

The Public Health Agency recommends all adults to use a face mask on public transport if crowding cannot be avoided, but preferably avoid public transport entirely or at least avoid it during rush hour. This applies to everyone regardless of whether or not you are vaccinated.

Note that recommendations may differ depending on where in Sweden you are, so it’s a good idea to also check regional pages. Google “region” plus the name of your region. For example, in Blekinge everyone over the age of 12 is advised to wear a face mask on public transport – this recommendation applies at all times, regardless of whether your bus or train is crowded.

From December 28th, long-distance public transport (buses and trains travelling more than 150 kilometres) must ensure that all travellers can be seated “as far as it is possible” and inform passengers about how to help prevent the spread of infection.

What you need to know about events

From December 23rd, public events with more than 20 guests will only be allowed to take place if all guests are seated. This is irrespective of whether a vaccine pass is required to enter or not. If organisers of indoor public events decide not to require a vaccine pass, then groups of guests must be one metre away from each other, with a limit of eight people per group.

All public events with over 500 attendees must require a vaccine pass as well as the above rules.

Additionally, also from December 24th, private events in rented venues may not have more than 50 guests.

According to the rules that apply prior to this date, organisers of indoor public events of more than 100 people are obligated to either require all attendees to show a valid vaccine pass in order to be granted admission, or have other infection control measures in place, for example assigned seating, no more than eight people per group, and groups should be able to keep at least one metre’s distance to each other.

Note that not all foreign vaccine passes are valid at public events, even if they got you into the country. For domestic use, Sweden only approves vaccine passes from countries that have joined the EU’s vaccine pass system (work is under way to open it up to more countries, but it is expected to remain unchanged over Christmas). If you don’t have a valid vaccine pass, the organiser may refuse admission.

What you need to know about restaurants

At the moment there is no Covid vaccine pass requirement at restaurants. The government had previously hinted that it was in the pipeline, but at a press conference on December 21st Prime Minister Andersson said that it had been put on hold. It is not not expected to be extended to venues such as restaurants until more people have been given the chance to get their booster dose of the vaccine.

The government did, however, announce that from December 23rd, restaurants may only serve seated guests, and must make sure groups can keep at least one metre’s distance to each other – for example, by placing tables further apart. Groups must be limited to eight people.

Restaurants are already responsible for making sure that visitors are able to avoid crowding, for example by limiting the number of visitors or signs that help people keep a distance. Everyone is recommended to keep a distance to other people in public spaces, especially indoors.

What you need to know about working from home

We hope you’ll get a chance to take some time off over Christmas and not work too hard, but if you do have to work over the holidays the current recommendations are for everyone to work from home if they can.

What you need to know about vaccinations

The Covid vaccine is free for everyone in Sweden, regardless of whether it is your first shot, your second or your booster. You can find out how to book a vaccination appointment in your region by going to the 1177.se website and clicking “välj region” at the top of the page.

If you don’t have a Swedish personnummer or samordningsnummer (personal number or coordination number) you can still get vaccinated for free, but you can’t currently get a valid Covid-19 vaccine pass. This is expected to change early next year, but not before Christmas.

What you need to know about meeting extended family and friends in Sweden

Everyone regardless of vaccination status or age is urged to avoid crowded spaces.

In terms of seeing people in private homes, there are no strict rules, with every individual expected to make an assessment based on their personal situation. People haven’t been told to cancel plans to spend Christmas at home with family or friends. You can read more here.

If you aren’t vaccinated (and don’t have a medical reason not to get vaccinated), you should not have any close contacts with people in risk groups, including people over the age of 70. So if you are not vaccinated you may want to avoid meeting elderly family members such as in-laws – and if you do meet them try to be extra mindful of doing it in a safe way, for example outdoors and with plenty of physical distance.

If you recently arrived from abroad and got tested after arriving in Sweden, you don’t have to self-isolate according to the current health and safety recommendations, but you are advised to be extra careful and keep a distance from other people, especially around risk groups and elderly people (see “What you need to know about testing recommendations” above), while waiting for your test result.

If you develop symptoms, you should always self-isolate and get tested for Covid.

What you need to know about travelling from Sweden

Make sure you read up on what Covid rules apply in the country you’re travelling to and any countries you’re travelling through on your way there. If you got vaccinated in Sweden and have a personnummer or samordningsnummer you can get a Swedish Covid pass via the covidbevis.se page – if you have an electronic ID and apply online, you should get your pass almost immediately, but if you have to apply by post the waiting times are several weeks.

If you need a negative Covid test to travel, note that travel certificates are not free in Sweden, so you’ll have to pay for your test. You can find a list of healthcare providers that offer travel certificates linked up with Sweden’s Covid pass scheme on the E-health Agency’s website.

Passengers are recommended to wear a face mask in Swedish airports, but this is not enforced and based on what The Local has been told by readers, is only very loosely adhered to – so that is perhaps something you will want to be aware of if you’re flying from Sweden.

Note that queues at airports may be long due to many countries having stepped up their Covid documents requirements, so arrive with plenty of time to spare. On the Saturday before Christmas, some 100 people missed their SAS flights out of Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport.

If you’re travelling within Sweden, you may also want to note that train operator SJ has had to cancel around 30 trains a day in the week leading up to Christmas, due to staff illness and staff shortages.

What you need to know if you catch Covid

If you develop symptoms of Covid – for example a blocked nose, sore throat, fever, cough or generally feeling unwell – you should self-isolate and contact your regional healthcare provider to get tested (click “välj region” at the top of the 1177.se page to find out how). If you’ve had confirmed Covid in the past six months you usually don’t have to get tested, but it’s worth contacting healthcare services regardless.

While waiting for your test result (and be aware this may take several days – see above) you should act as though you have Covid and not have any contact with other people. If your test comes back positive, the Public Health Agency writes that you should stay at home for at least a week after you first developed symptoms, and you should be back to good health and not have had a fever in the past two days before you can end your self-isolation.

If your test comes back negative, you should still stay at home until you’re relatively symptom-free and haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours. This is to help prevent the spread of other illnesses such as the seasonal flu, to reduce the burden on the healthcare sector.

If you want a faster result, you can buy a rapid antigen test from a pharmacy, but they may be difficult to get hold of as many pharmacies are out of stock, and the guidelines state that you should also get a free PCR test from the healthcare services for a more exact result.

A few websites for more information:

KrisInformation is a service collecting information around crises from Swedish authorities, including the pandemic.

The Public Health Agency publishes new figures regarding Covid data Tuesday-Friday around 2pm (in Swedish only), but note that some of the data may lag, especially over the Christmas period. They also have an English-language Q&A about current recommendations.

Find all of The Local’s coverage of Covid in Sweden here.

If you have general questions about the virus and can’t find the answers in these places, there’s also a helpline you can call: 113 13. If you need healthcare advice, you should call Sweden’s national healthcare hotline 1177 (and you can also visit their website here).


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