Swedish government ‘wants more powers to fight coronavirus pandemic’

The Swedish government wants to be able to quickly make decisions on how to tackle the coronavirus, without first obtaining Parliament’s approval, according to Swedish paper Expressen.

Swedish government 'wants more powers to fight coronavirus pandemic'
Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren (L) speaks at a joint press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven about the coronavirus at the government in Stockholm, Sw

It would be the most far-reaching powers of a government since the Second World War.

“This would be unique for Sweden”, says Mark Klamberg, professor of international law at Stockholm University. “It can be about restricting public groups, closing down shopping centres or imposing restrictions on transport – measures that need to be taken quickly to limit the spread of infection in society.”

The Swedish government wants to temporarily gain increased powers to be able to make this type of decision without first having the legislative proposals go through Parliament.

According to Expressen, a draft proposal has been sent to the opposition but the Moderate Party has reservations.

Sweden has got broad media attention for its soft approach to the coronavirus outbreak. But it has rejected the idea that life is carrying on uninterrupted as the country passes 6,000 confirmed cases.

Sweden has not ordered a lockdown, instead issuing recommendations and calling on citizens to “each take responsibility” and follow the guidelines.

On Wednesday, new binding guidelines asked everyone in the country to reduce social contact and keep at a distance from others at all time.


Health Minister Lena Hallengren, who together with Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and Foreign Minister Ann Linde held a special briefing for international media, stressed that the Nordic country had introduced a string of measures and was ready to do more if needed.

People over the age of 70 and in risk groups have been strongly encouraged to avoid contact with other people, and higher education institutions have been advised to conduct classes remotely.

Economic measures have been adopted to make sick leave less costly, and people have been repeatedly asked to work from home and self-isolate at the slightest symptom of the new coronavirus.

Among the stricter measures are bans on gatherings of more than 50 people and on visits to nursing homes.

What should you be doing to help reduce the rate of infection?

In Sweden, the official advice requires everyone to:

  • Stay at home if you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild and you would normally continue life as normal. Stay at home until you have been fully symptom-free for at least two days.
  • Practise good hygiene, by regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser when that’s not possible, and covering any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
  • Keep distance from all other people when in public places. That includes shops, parks, museums, and on the street, for example. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a 1.5-2 metre distance.
  • Avoid large gatherings, including parties, weddings, and other activities.
  • Work from home if you can. Employers have been asked to ensure this happens where possible.
  • Avoid all non-essential travel, both within and outside Sweden. That includes visits to family, planned holidays, and any other trips that can be avoided.
  • If you have to travel, avoid busy times such as rush hour if you can. This reduces the number of people on public transport and makes it easier for people to keep their distance.
  • If you are over 70 or belong to a high-risk group, you should stay at home and reduce all social contacts. Avoid going to the shops (get groceries delivered or try to find someone who can help you), but you can go outside if you keep distance from other people. Read more about the help available to those in risk groups here.
  • By following these precautions, we can all help to protect those who are most at risk and to reduce the rate of infection, which in turn reduces the burden on Sweden's healthcare sector.
  • Read more detail about the precautions we should all be taking in this paywall-free article. Advice in English is also available from Sweden's Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation.


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Sweden records world’s first case of bird flu in a porpoise

A porpoise found stranded on a Swedish beach in June died of bird flu, the first time the virus has been detected in one of the marine mammals, Sweden's National Veterinary Institute said on Wednesday.

Sweden records world's first case of bird flu in a porpoise

“As far as we know this is the first confirmed case in the world of bird flu in a porpoise,” veterinarian Elina Thorsson said in a statement. “It is likely that the porpoise somehow came into contact with infected birds,” she said.

The young male was found stranded, alive, on a beach in western Sweden in late June. Despite efforts from the public to get it to swim out to deeper
waters, it was suffering from exhaustion and died the same evening.

The bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in several of its organs. “Contrary to seals, where illnesses caused by a flu virus have been detected multiple times, there have been only a handful of reports of flu virus in cetaceans”, Thorsson said.

The virus has also previously been detected in other mammals, including red foxes, otters, lynx and skunks, the institute said.

Europe and North America are currently seeing a vast outbreak of bird flu among wild birds.