Sweden Allows Cross-Border Travel as Death Toll Tops 5,000

(Bloomberg) -- Sweden has lifted travel restrictions that had kept citizens within its borders, even as the country grapples with one of the world’s highest Covid-19 mortality rates.

From June 30, Swedes can travel to 10 European countries including Spain, Italy and Belgium.

Sweden Allows Cross-Border Travel as Death Toll Tops 5,000

In what looks like a quid pro quo arrangement, the Swedish government on Wednesday said it selected countries that “have decided to open up to travelers from Sweden.” That means that Swedes will face minimum “uncertainty” when trying to enter another country.

Sweden’s Nordic neighbors -- Norway, Denmark and Finland -- were excluded, after they left Swedes off their own travel lists.

After leaving schools, shops and restaurants open throughout the pandemic, contagion rates in Sweden are much higher than anywhere else in the Nordic region. Scientists have been eager to learn whether that’s led to a higher level of immunity.

But according to Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, “the trends in immunity have been surprisingly slow.” He also says “it’s difficult to explain why this is so.”

Sweden Allows Cross-Border Travel as Death Toll Tops 5,000

Sweden’s approach to tackling Covid-19 has been among the most controversial in the world. Unlike the rest of Scandinavia, where governments quickly imposed strict lockdowns, Sweden advised its citizens to observe social distancing rules, but left most of society open.

Some analysts have predicted that the softer lockdown means Sweden’s economy will fare better than others. But the country’s high death rate has triggered considerable backlash, and a recent poll suggested most Swedes have lost faith in their country’s strategy to fight the virus.

Tegnell and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven have insisted that Sweden’s strategy is the right one. That’s based on an assumption that Covid-19 will be around for a long time, meaning short-term lockdowns ultimately won’t help, and governments need to come up with more sustainable models for living with the virus.

On Wednesday, Sweden’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed 5,000, and lawmakers in the country’s parliament observed a minute of silence to honor the victims.

“This moment is for all of those who have lost their work, their health, their lives,” Andreas Norlen, parliament’s speaker, said. “The parliament is mourning. Sweden is mourning.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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