Sweden has not imposed extraordinary lockdown orders seen elsewhere in Europe to stem the spread of the virus, instead calling for citizens to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines.
The government has also banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.
But on Monday it proposed a bill to give it additional powers – that could see it limit public gatherings or close businesses – without first getting the approval of parliament.
“Sweden and the world is in a serious situation due to the coronavirus,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said in a statement.
“We see a need to be able to act quickly if the situation calls for it, it is ultimately about protecting human lives.”
The bill still needs to be approved by parliament before it can come into force.
It would only grant the extra powers for a period of three months, but opposition politicians voiced concerns over the proposed law.
(article continues below)
See also on The Local:
Chairs in the Swedish parliament. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
The leader of the conservative Moderate Party, Ulf Kristersson, said the government has not faced delays in rolling out existing measures to curb the outbreak.
He added that the proposal lacked clear definitions of how the added powers could be used and would circumvent the parliament without giving the legislative body the power to overrule.
Kristersson acknowledged the need for speedy decisions in a time of crisis, but said that measures also needed to have “democratic legitimacy”.
Sweden, whose softer measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus have drawn criticism at home and abroad, on Monday reported 7,206 cases of Covid-19 and 477 deaths – so far relatively lower than many of its European neighbours.
The government last week rejected claims that the country’s response was one of inaction, saying “it’s not business as usual in Sweden”.
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.