Sweden bans travellers from Britain over new COVID strain

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden will stop allowing in foreign travellers from Britain for one month in a bid to curb the rapid spread of a new strain of the coronavirus, the government said on Monday.

"To minimize the risk of it spreading here, the government has today decided on a ban of entry," Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told a news conference, adding that Swedish citizens were exempt from the ban.

The ban will take effect from midnight on Monday and is expected to be in place for one month. In addition, Sweden will stop all flights from Britain for 48 hours.

Damberg further said all people who arrived from Britain since Dec. 12 would have to get tested and all Swedes coming back would have to self-isolate for one week.

It is the first time since the coronavirus pandemic emerged that Sweden has closed its borders to any country within Europe. Sweden has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, instead largely relying on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and good hygiene.

Damberg also said it would shut the border with Denmark from midnight for one month, citing fears that harsh lockdown measures in Denmark may spur its citizens to flock to Sweden for Christmas shopping. Danes living in Sweden would be exempt from the ban.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the new strain had led to spiralling infection numbers, and many countries in Europe and others in the Middle East and Asia have since suspended travel for people from Britain.

Denmark's infectious disease authority said last week it had found nine coronavirus infections involving the new strain from Nov 14. to Dec. 3, and was monitoring the new variant closely.

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Mark Heinrich)