Sweden bans entry from Norway over new coronavirus variant

STOCKHOLM, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- Sweden on Sunday issued a ban on travel from Norway over fears of the spread of the new variant of coronavirus first found in Britain.

"We are ready to make the decisions required to reduce the spread of infection and protect life and health," Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg said at a press conference, adding that Norway's shutdown measures could increase "the risk of congestion in Swedish municipalities near the border and the risk that the mutated virus will spread further in Sweden."

Damberg said the entry ban takes effect at midnight and lasts until Feb. 14. It can be extended if necessary.

According to him, the ban works the same way as the existing Swedish ban for Denmark, which means that exceptions are made for people who live or work in Sweden, staff who transport goods and others in the transport sector, and people with "urgent family reasons."

Sweden already banned entry from Denmark and Britain until Feb. 14.

The Swedish Public Health Agency said on Saturday that people who have traveled to Norway should be tested for COVID-19 and avoid contact with others when they return to Sweden. The reason, the agency said, is that Norwegian authorities fear a major outbreak in the Oslo area of the new variant of coronavirus first identified in Britain.

While Norway has reported 70 cases of the new variant, there are currently 55 reported cases of the variant in Sweden. The Swedish Public Health Agency admitted on Sunday that the variant, if not controlled, can be as widespread in Sweden as in neighboring Norway, reported Swedish Television.

Sweden had recorded 547,166 COVID-19 cases and 11,005 deaths as of Friday, according to the latest data from the Public Health Agency.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Sweden and other countries with the already-authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, 237 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 64 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to the latest information released by the World Health Organization.

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