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Sweden scraps negative Covid test for foreigners from some countries

Less than four weeks after it was introduced, Sweden will later this week scrap the Covid test requirement for foreign visitors from some countries and bring back the vaccine pass rules that applied before the turn of the year.

Sweden scraps negative Covid test for foreigners from some countries
Swedish border police checking travel documents on the Öresund Bridge. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The government made the announcement following a request from the Public Health Agency, with the new border rules set to come into force on Friday, January 21st.

Since December 28th, foreign citizens (with some exceptions, such as residents of Sweden or people travelling for urgent family reasons) have had to show a negative test to be allowed into the country, regardless of country of departure or vaccination status.

These rules were introduced after the Omicron variant of the coronavirus started to spread in other European countries, but the variant now dominates in Sweden too. Sweden has been seeing a rapid increase in the number of new Covid cases in recent weeks.

“Travellers are no longer considered to pose a special risk of affecting the spread of Omicron in Sweden. The special requirement for a negative test for ongoing Covid-19 infection performed no more than 48 hours before arrival in Sweden is therefore no longer considered to be a proportionate measure, according to a request from the Swedish Public Health Agency,” read a government statement on Tuesday.

The entry rules that applied prior to December 28th will now be brought back.

This means that adult foreign citizens (again with certain exceptions) travelling to Sweden from EU/EEA countries, including the Nordics, will have to show either the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate or a valid equivalent which shows that the person is either fully vaccinated with a first and second dose, tested negative no more than 72 hours before arrival, or recovered from confirmed infection in the past six months.

Foreign citizens travelling to Sweden from outside the EU/EEA must be covered by an exemption from the overall entry ban (for example if they live in an “exempt” country), and show a negative Covid test no older than 72 hours unless they are also exempt from the test requirement.

Several categories of travellers are exempt both from the entry ban and from presenting a negative test on the border, for example under-18s, people who live in Sweden, people travelling for urgent family reasons, or travellers with vaccination certificates issued in so-called “approved” countries. A full list of countries whose vaccination certificates Sweden accepts for entry can be found here.

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TRAVEL NEWS

EXPLAINED: What’s behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

Travellers are reporting queues over an hour long at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. What's going on and how long is it expected to last?

EXPLAINED: What's behind the queues at Stockholm Arlanda airport?

What’s the situation at Stockholm Arlanda airport? 

On Friday morning, there were queues lasting over an hour at Arlanda’s security controls. By 10am, they had been reduced to below half an hour, according to the live update the airport operator, Swedavia, maintains on its website here

Swedavia first began warning of long queue times on Monday, saying the queues were the result of a resurgence in travel combined with staffing shortages at Avarn, the contractor responsible for managing the security checks. 

“The wait times are due to a staff shortage with our security services contractor – which is caused by ongoing recruitment and absences due to illness,” the airport said on its website

What are travellers saying? 

Twitter is predictably awash with angry comments from travellers, including some well-known commentators. 

The terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp resorted to capital letters to bemoan the “CATASTROPHE” at the airport. 

The Financial Times’ Nordic Correspondent also compared the situation at Arlanda unfavourably with the smooth controls at Helsinki Airport

“Never seen anything like it and sounds like might be worse today. In Terminal 5 both queues, SAS and Norwegian, were well over 100 metres long,” he told The Local. “It took me 50 minutes to get through security. Don’t think it’s ever taken more than 10 in the Nordics before.” 

What should you do if you are travelling through Stockholm Arlanda at the moment? 

Swedavia recommends that you arrive “well in advance” when taking a flight. You can contact your airline here to find out when their check-ins and baggage drops open.  

Swedavia also recommends that you do everything possible to speed up the check-in process, such as:

  • checking in from home
  • packing hand baggage to make screening faster
  • checking the need for a face covering in advance
  • checking that you have the right travel documents ready 

If you can’t check in from home, Swedavia recommends seeing if you can check in using an automated machine at the airport.

What is the airport doing to to improve the situation? 

On June 15th, the airport is reopening Terminal 4, which might help somewhat, although the airport warns that as staffing is the major problem, having more space will not fully solve the problem over the summer. 

In a press release issued on Friday, Svedavia’s chief operations officer, Peder Grunditz, said opening a new terminal was “an important measure”. 

“We are now going to have the three biggest terminals back in operation for the first time since the pandemic,” he said. 

The company and Avarn are also making “big recruitment efforts” and taking “operational measures” to improve the queue situation, although the “challenging labour market” made that difficult. 

When will waiting times return to normal? 

In his press release, Grunditz conceded that waiting times were not likely to return to normal during the summer, due to the rapid growth in the number of people taking flights. 

“Even though we expect gradual improvements, the queuing situation is going to continue to be challenging during periods over the summer,” he said. 

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