UPDATE: This article is not being updated. Click HERE to read The Local’s report from the press conference.
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson will hold a press conference at 2pm together with Health Minister Lena Hallengren, Finance Minister Mikael Damberg and the Public Health Agency’s director-general Karin Tegmark Wisell about “measures linked to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
One of the potential measures which have been in the pipeline include extending Sweden’s vaccine pass scheme to more venues, such as restaurants and long-distance public transport.
The deadline for authorities and organisations to respond to the government’s vaccine pass proposal was December 20th, so it is likely that we will get further news about that today.
Swedish news agency TT writes that the Public Health Agency has by and large backed the proposal, with the caveat that limiting the number of passengers may be a more appropriate measure on public transport, so as not to exclude people without a valid vaccine pass.
The Public Health Agency also writes in its comment on the proposal that vaccine passes won’t be enough – they need to be combined with other measures considering the rise in infections and the new Omicron variant, which is believed to be more infectious than other variants.
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TT writes that the agency also doesn’t think that vaccine passes at this stage should be enforced at leisure and cultural centres, which are important venues for children who may need to be accompanied by an adult to attend, regardless of whether or not said adult is vaccinated.
The Local has read the proposed rules, which in their current form don’t automatically mandate vaccine passes – instead it would be up to venues or companies to decide whether to use them, either on their own or in combination with other infection control measures. Vaccine passes are currently only used in Sweden on the border and at public gatherings and events with more than 100 attendees.
Minors and people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 for medical reasons would be exempt from any requirements to present a vaccine pass. People who do not fall into that category would not be exempt even if they can show a negative test or proof of recovery.
Several groups are still excluded from Sweden’s vaccine pass scheme, including people who have neither of the personnummer nor samordningsnummer identity numbers, and people vaccinated in a country that has not yet joined the EU’s vaccine pass system.
The government’s proposal points out – and the Swedish Health Ministry has previously told The Local – that it should be possible for at least the former category to apply for a Swedish vaccine pass on January 1st 2022, when a new manual system is expected to be launched.
The proposal also notes that “Swedes who have been vaccinated in a third country, but who have moved back to Sweden or who are staying in Sweden for a long time” should also be able to use the same manual system. The Local has repeatedly contacted the Health Ministry to clarify whether this includes non-citizens who live in Sweden, but has yet to receive confirmation. We’ll let you know as soon as we do.
The government has previously told us that it plans to make sure “visitors” from third countries can also have access to events and venues that require a vaccine pass, if they can show that they are fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine. However, the proposal confirms it is still reviewing “the legal and technical possibilities for this”, so it is not yet clear when this will be available to foreign tourists.
Several of the Swedish authorities and organisations that have responded to the government’s proposal stress the importance of not excluding fully vaccinated people from vaccine pass mandates.
Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsman writes that it has received a number of complaints in recent months from vaccinated people who can’t get a vaccine pass, and warns that the consequence could be that “certain persons are needlessly subjected to far-reaching restrictions regarding their freedom and rights. Such a situation would of course not be acceptable”.
The Discrimination Ombudsman stresses that before any proposals enter into force, it is crucial that “necessary manual routines and technical solutions are in place which mean that these categories of people have the same opportunities as others to access a vaccination certificate for use in Sweden”.
Tourism industry organisation Visita writes: “It is of great importance that non-European vaccination certificates – for example from the US – can also be used and verified within the framework of the system. This is highly relevant for several types of venues and not least in hotel restaurants where international guests are present.”
As The Local has previously reported, EU-issued vaccine passes and those from the non-EU/EEA countries that have joined the EU’s vaccine pass system are valid in Sweden, so if you fall into this category there is no need to convert your certificate to a Swedish pass. In Sweden, “fully vaccinated” means that you have had one dose of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, or two doses of Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), Spikevax (Moderna) or Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca), with the second dose administered at least two weeks previously.