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18 Mar 2020 | 06:32 AM UTC

Sweden: Government to close borders effective March 19 /update 2

Sweden to close borders to visitors from non-EU countries effective March 19; confirm travel itineraries

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SWE

Event

Interior Minister Mikael Damberg announced the temporary closure of Sweden's borders for 30 days to most visitors from non-EU countries to limit the spread of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The measure will be effective Thursday, March 19, and should remain in place until Friday, April 17. In addition to EU citizens and permanent residents, individuals with "particularly important reasons" will be allowed to enter the territory. This comes after EU member states agreed on Tuesday, March 17, to close external borders for 30 days.

Additionally, media sources reported that Swedish rail operator SJ will run at reduced capacity as of Tuesday with a 25 percent reduction on most routes.

The Swedish government previously announced on Wednesday, March 11, that all public gatherings and events must be limited to no more than 500 participants. This includes demonstrations and events held for sports, culture, religion, and any other gathering in which freedom of assembly is exercised.

As of Wednesday, March 18, some 1196 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country along with eight fatalities. Further spread of the virus is expected in the coming days and weeks.  

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia. 

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.