Norway and Denmark have snubbed Sweden by opening their borders to each other but not to their Scandinavian neighbour because of its controversial no-lockdown coronavirus strategy.
Denmark said on Friday that it would open its borders from June 15 to Norwegian, German and Icelandic tourists while Norway said it would do so for Danish visitors.
Norwegian, German and Icelandic tourists coming to Denmark will have to show they have booked at least six nights in the country and will not be able to stay overnight in Copenhagen.
But the Norwegian and Danish prime ministers said they would not open up to Swedish visitors because of its high Covid-19 infection rate.
Sweden has a death rate per capita almost 10 times higher than Norway’s and four times that of Denmark after pursuing looser restrictions and keeping its own borders and schools open.
But the policy has turned into a diplomatic headache for Stockholm as its neighbours turn down its request for co-ordinated Nordic action and a number of other countries such as Greece, Estonia and Latvia refuse to open up for Swedish visitors.
Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, said Oslo would enter into talks with Sweden and Finland but stressed that it would look closely at the infection rate. Danish authorities said they were in dialogue with Sweden and were weighing opening up to parts of the country such as the southern region of Skane, which is connected to Copenhagen via the Oresund bridge from Malmo.
Several Swedish ministers had pleaded with Denmark, Norway, and Finland to act together in the spirit of Nordic co-operation. But the scale of the different Covid-19 infection rates was shown on Friday when Sweden announced 84 new deaths, bringing its total to 4,350. Norway and Denmark, which both have about half of Sweden’s population, each reported no new deaths on Friday and totals of 237 and 568 respectively.
Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s minister for home affairs, urged his neighbours not to “weaken Nordic co-operation” and said he understood there would be disappointment in Sweden, especially in Skane. He added that there was a “common vision that the Nordic region shall be one of the world’s most integrated regions. We will not get there by closing borders.”
Finland’s ministers and health authorities have suggested that Sweden’s high death rate makes a common Nordic travel area impossible and have instead looked at trying to join the Baltic travel bubble between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
But there was better economic news for Sweden on Friday as GDP figures for the first quarter showed it was one of the few countries in Europe to enjoy growth in the first three months of the year. The country’s GDP increased by 0.1 per cent compared with the fourth quarter.
Still, Sweden is expected to face its steepest downturn since the second world war with the government in Stockholm this week forecasting its economy would contract by about 7 per cent this year. Denmark estimated its economy would shrink by 5.3 per cent in 2020 this week.
Norway and Denmark both locked down on March 12 and have been among the European countries quickest to reopen. Norwegian schools will return to normal next week, with no requirement for pupils to keep a distance from each other, while in Denmark zoos and theme parks have opened alongside shops, hairdressers and restaurants.