Coronavirus: Sweden blocks travel from Denmark

Sweden on Monday announced it was barring travellers from neighbouring Denmark, over concerns of an influx of Danish Christmas shoppers amid rising numbers of coronavirus infections.

Coronavirus: Sweden blocks travel from Denmark
Photo: Søren Bidstrup/Scanpix/AFP

This is the first time during the pandemic that the Scandinavian country has closed the border on one of its neighbours. 

“The new mutated virus has also been confirmed in Denmark and some other countries. But Denmark has also had an increased spread lately and elected to close down for example all shopping malls during Christmas and the holidays,” Home Affairs Minister Mikael Damberg told reporters.

“There is an obvious risk that Danes will be tempted to cross over to Sweden to shop for Christmas presents or spend time in Malmo for instance,” Damberg added.

Swedish citizens are exempt from the entry ban, as are non-citizens who live or work in Sweden, and people working in transportation of goods.

Like many other European countries, Sweden also imposed an immediate suspension of passenger flights from the UK, over the variant of the coronavirus that is reportedly up to 70 percent more contagious.

READ MORE: What you need to know about Sweden's travel ban on UK and Denmark

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there is currently “no evidence to indicate any change in disease severity.”

Neighbouring Norway, Denmark and Finland have all imposed travel restrictions at times during the pandemic on Sweden, which has seen a much higher death toll than the rest of the Nordics.

Sweden, which has followed a controversial softer strategy to curb the novel coronavirus with mostly non-coercive measures, has tried to keep regional borders open.

“Now when we are closing libraries on the Swedish side, then it's not reasonable that Danish tourists should come and shop or go to a restaurant,” Damberg said.

Danish health authorities have reported nine confirmed cases of the new strain.

Faced with a strong second wave, Sweden has tightened preventative measures in recent months.

As cases multiplied, authorities urged people to limit social interactions to immediate family or a few friends.

A ban on public gatherings of more than eight people took effect last month, and last week the country for the first time recommended the use of face masks on public transport.

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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.”