Swedish police to double passport slots to bring down queues

Police in Sweden are to hire new passport staff, extend opening times, and double the number of available appointments in a push to reduce waiting times.

Swedish police to double passport slots to bring down queues
People wait in the queue for emergency temporary passports at Arlanda Airport. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

As Swedish passports expire every five years, and many people did not renew passports during the pandemic, there has been a surge in applications for renewal this year. In the worst-hit parts of Sweden, it is currently impossible to get a new appointment to renew a Swedish passport before the start of December. 

Police in Sweden have gone so far to declare the shortage of slots “a special national event”, or nationella särskilda händelse, a category usually used for extreme events such as terror attacks, or gangland massacres. 

In a press release issued on Thursday evening, Per Engström, the officer appointed to lead efforts to solve the “special national event”, said that police were recruiting 400 new staff, extending opening hours, and bringing in digital solutions to speed up processing times. 

“We are working across the board to improve the situation,” he said. “From Monday onwards we are going to increase opening times successively and bring in the possibility to book passport times even outside office hours.” 

The police are also calling on students studying to be police, and even ordinary police officers to work extra hours to help reduce the queues.  

The police have also changed the booking system so that applicants need to enter their personal numbers to book times, and have also brought in a system to prevent so-called ‘bots’ making multiple bookings. 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”