June 17, 2020 / 2:52 PM / 22 days ago

UPDATE 1-Sweden to lift travel curbs to 10 European countries from June 30

(Adds details, background)

STOCKHOLM, June 17 (Reuters) - Sweden will lift its advice against non-essential travel to 10 European countries from June 30, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The countries are Greece, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, France, Iceland, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

For other European countries the advice against non-essential travel will still apply. A recommendation against travel to countries outside the EU and the Schengen open-border zone - which groups most EU member states and some non-members - will be extended to Aug. 31.

“Just as in our previous decision, this is not based on the spread of contagion but on the uncertainty regarding quarantine rules or because there are no flights, trains and boats that will allow you to come back home (from certain countries),” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told a news conference.

The recommendation against travel to neighbouring Denmark, Norway and Finland will remain, as well as for Britain.

Sweden’s Nordic neighbours excluded Sweden when they have started to open their borders, citing a high level of virus spread in Sweden, while Britain has recorded the third highest number of COVID-19 deaths worldwide and still has a relatively high infection rate.

Sweden’s previous advice, initially published on March 14 and then extended on May 13 to cover the period through to July 15, was against non-essential travel to all countries.

Sweden surpassed 5,000 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday but deaths have slowed considerably since the peak in April and have for the last two weeks been around normal levels compared to a five-year average of overall deaths.

Unlike most other countries in western Europe, Sweden opted against a full lockdown, keeping most schools and nearly all businesses open while seeking to leverage mostly voluntary restrictions and recommendations on social distancing. (Reporting by Johan Ahlander Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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