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Source: US Global Legal Monitor

(Mar. 3, 2020) On March 2, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) requested that the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) revoke the IranAir airline’s right to operate (trafiktillstånd) in Sweden. The request comes as a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Covid-19, from spreading in Sweden. The Transport Agency responded by temporarily revoking the right until further notice.

The Swedish Public Health Agency explained during a press conference that the reason that they had requested the revocation specifically for Iran, but not for China, South Korea, and Italy, is that the Agency has not received reassuring information that the Iranian authorities are accurately reporting the extent of the virus’s spread in the country or correctly managing the outbreak, including informing its citizens on how to limit the virus’s further spread. The Agency pointed out that it generally avoids halting direct flights from countries because people are likely to use other means of transport to reach Sweden, thereby making it harder to monitor from where people entering the country have traveled. However, the Agency felt it had no choice because, under the current circumstances, it felt unable to manage the situation with passengers arriving from Iran.

One crucial part of the Agency’s decision is that because the Iranian government is not divulging where in Iran the virus has spread and, thus, Iranian citizens in Sweden don’t know if they have been in an area in Iran with coronavirus, they have been unable or unwilling for various reasons to aid in tracking the spread of the disease, which is mandated under Swedish law. (3 kap. 4 § Smittskyddslag (2004:168).) Most European airlines that fly from Iran to Europe have cancelled fights, and IranAir is currently the only airline that continues to operate a direct flight from Iran to Sweden. The next scheduled arrival from Iran was to Landvetter Airport in Gothenburg on March 3, 2020. According to the Public Health Agency press briefing, planes from Iran typically contain 308 passengers, all of whom are considered possible carriers of the virus.

As of March 2, 2020, Sweden has 14 confirmed cases of the virus, six of which involve persons infected while in Iran or through contact with persons who have visited Iran.

Legal Basis for the Request

In accordance with Swedish law (7 kap. 11 § Luftfartslag (2010:500) and 7 kap. 8 § Luftfartsförordning (2010:770)), the right to operate in Sweden is to be issued by the Transport Agency and may be revoked if the conditions of the license are violated, or if there are special reasons for revoking the license.

Previous Revocation of IranAir’s Operation License

The Swedish Transport Agency previously, on January 10, 2020, revoked the license for IranAir to operate in Sweden after Iran shot down flight 752, carrying 17 Swedish residents. At that time, the Transport Agency invoked the lack of security in connection with IranAir’s operations. It restored the right on January 28, 2020.

New Risk Assessment Published

On the same day that the Public Health Agency requested the revocation of IranAir’s Swedish operating license, it issued a new public health assessment on the likelihood of community spread of the coronavirus in Sweden, determining that it was elevated compared to last week and raising the warning from low to moderate.

Also on March 2, 2020, the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (Utrikesdepartementet) issued a revised travel notice for Iran, advising against all travel to the country. Previously it had only advised against nonessential travel to Iran.