Sweden to require negative COVID-19 test for arrivals from abroad

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Passengers prepare to check in at Arlanda airport for the first chartered TUI flight to Rhodes in Greece since the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Stockholm

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Foreign visitors traveling to Sweden will need to show they have tested negative for COVID-19 within the last 48 hours, the government said on Wednesday.

The decision followed a recommendation last week by the country's Health Agency and is aimed at keeping new variants of the virus from spreading.

"From Saturday, the 6th of February, foreign citizens who want to enter Sweden will have to show a negative COVID-19 test," Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference.

"Without that they won't be able to enter the country."

The government said there would be exceptions to the rule, including cross-border commuters and foreign citizens resident in Sweden, for whom different rules would apply.

Travel restrictions were already in place for people coming from Britain, Denmark and Norway, as well as for all other travelers from outside the European Union.

Sweden, which has spurned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has seen the rate of new infections dip in recent weeks, though cases of the British COVID-19 variant have been increasing.

On Wednesday, the Public Health Agency said it had registered 4,310 new COVID cases and 124 new deaths. In total, Sweden has had 580,916 confirmed cases and 11,939 deaths.

Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson; editing by Niklas Pollard)