Fact check: No, Sweden has not banned the import of books from the UK

Has Sweden banned the import of books from the UK? The short answer is no, but Brits who hope to send books, newspapers or magazines from the UK to Sweden may wrongly be told otherwise by their post office. Here’s why there’s confusion.

a royal mail employee carrying parcels
Sweden still lets you post books from the UK to Sweden. Photo: AP Photo/Frank Augstein

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the amended Royal Mail website which corrected its error.

Reader question: Hi The Local, a friend of mine was told in the UK that he could not send his new book to me, because Sweden has banned the import of books. Surely this can’t be true?

If you looked at the British postal service Royal Mail’s country page for Sweden before it was updated following The Local’s article on February 7th, you would be excused for thinking there’s a blanket ban on posting books or any kind of printed products to the Nordic country.

Indeed, before it was amended, under the sub-heading “Can I send it to Sweden?” it listed “printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry; manuscripts, typescripts and plans” among the prohibited items.

Screenshot of a Royal Mail webpage erroneously stating that “printed books, newspapers, pictures and other products of the printing industry; manuscripts, typescripts and plans” are banned for import to Sweden. Screenshot and highlight: The Local

The webpage was updated a day after The Local contacted the Royal Mail, who also confirmed to us that the original page was incorrect. A spokesperson apologised for the error and said that “we understand the need for these webpages to be up to date and accurate at all times”.

Before the information on the website was corrected, The Local also contacted the Swedish Customs Agency, who confirmed to us that you may still send books, newspapers and other printed products from the UK to Sweden.

“It is perfectly possible to send books to Sweden,” a spokesperson reassured us.

As far as the Swedish rules regarding imports of print products go, the only recent change is that foreign magazines are as of July 1st 2021 no longer exempt from VAT. They used to be exempt if their total value was less than 300 kronor, but new tax rules scrapped that exception.

Brexit of course also means that the UK is subject to the same customs rules as other non-EU states. This means that people based in Sweden may in some cases have to pay customs duty or VAT on items they receive from the UK, depending on a few different factors.

But neither of these changes affect the possibility of physically posting books to Sweden. In fact, the confusion seems to be the result of the Royal Mail publishing incorrect lists for several countries, including France and Germany, which also appear to have been fixed.

It is not clear how long these lists existed on the website or how they appeared there, but you can find people complaining in online forums as long ago as 2015 that they were wrongly told that importing books and magazines to their country from the UK was prohibited.

So again, in short: Sweden has not banned the import of books from the UK.

Many thanks to the reader who brought this issue to our attention. To get in touch with our editorial team if you have tips, feedback or questions about life in Sweden, email [email protected]. We may not be able to reply to every email, but we read them all and they help inform our coverage.

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When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The European Commission has recently approved three new Covid-19 vaccines, targeting both the original virus and the dominating Omicron variants. When are these expected to be available in Sweden?

When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The first vaccines, approved on September 1st, are the Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.1 and Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1. These are booster vaccines which will be available for those aged 12 and above who have completed one course of the vaccine against Covid-19.

These two vaccines are designed to target the original strain of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, as well as the Omicron BA.1 subvariant.

Deliveries of this vaccine have recently started to arrive in Sweden, although it may take a few weeks before doses have been distributed to each of Sweden’s regions.

The third vaccine, approved on September 12th, is an adapted version of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), designed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 in addition to the original strain of SARS-CoV-2. These are the two variants which have dominated Covid-19 infections in Sweden this summer.

“The vaccine contains half the original vaccine and half of a vaccine for the Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5,” vaccine coordinator Charlotta Bergquist at the Swedish Medical Products Agency told TT newswire.

This vaccine is also a booster vaccine, available to those aged 12 and above who have already completed one full course of Covid-19 vaccination.

The Public Health Agency expect delivery of this second vaccine to commence in October.

You don’t need to wait for the new vaccine

From September 1st, those with an increased risk of severe illness due to Covid-19, as well as pregnant women and those over the age of 65 have been eligible for booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in preparation for the autumn and winter season.

However, the Public Health Agency does not recommend that those who are currently eligible for a booster dose wait until the new vaccines have been delivered, rather that they should take their booster dose with the current vaccine as planned.

“People don’t need to wait for the updated vaccines,” Sören Andersson, head of department at the Public Health Agency said.

“We deem them to be equal when it comes to protection against serious illness and death,” he continued.