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Swedish lawmakers hand government extra powers to fight coronavirus

The Swedish government has been granted extraordinary powers to quickly curb the spread of the new coronavirus without prior parliamentary approval.

Swedish lawmakers hand government extra powers to fight coronavirus
The Swedish parliament has reduced the number of MPs during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

The new law grants the Social Democrat-led government the ability to temporarily close businesses, limit public gatherings or shut down ports and airports, as well as a number of other measures.

“It is important that the government has access to more tools in the fight against the coronavirus if they should prove necessary,” Social Democrat MP Kristina Nilsson told parliament during a Thursday debate.

After objections from opposition parties, the bill was amended so that if the government decides to enforce any measure quickly without going through parliament, lawmakers can vote to rescind the measure if they deem it unnecessary. And the government is only meant to take advantage of its new powers if new measures are so urgent that waiting for prior parliamentary approval would be near-impossible.

The new powers come into force on April 18th and last until the end of June.

The government is still prohibited from adopting measures that curtail rights guaranteed by the country's constitution, meaning it would still need to go through parliament to issue the type of curfews that have been imposed elsewhere in Europe.

However, so far the government has not pursued such measures, opting for a softer approach and calling for citizens to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines.

The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.

On Thursday, the government also decided on a month-long extension of a ban on non-necessary travel to the country from outside the EU, in line with a joint EU decision.

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COVID-19

When should I get my next dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden?

Covid-19 has not been classified as a "critical threat to society" in Sweden since April. But the Swedish Public Health Agency still recommends that everyone aged 12 and above get vaccinated. So when should you get your next dose?

When should I get my next dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden?

As winter approaches, it’s a good time to check that you’re up to date on your booster shots.

If you’re aged 12 or older, the agency recommends that you should at least have completed your primary dose of the vaccine, which comprises two shots. Because vaccine efficacy wanes over time, if you are aged 18 and above, you should have already had your third dose.

The booster dose, called a påfyllnadsdos, can be administered a minimum of four months after the primary dose or the most recent booster. A booster shot is recommended even if you have tested positive for Covid-19 since your most recent vaccination, because the protection offered by a vaccine is more reliable than that offered by an infection.

The agency has also warned that the Omicron BA.5 variant spreads more easily than previous Covid-19 mutations.

Deliveries of two of the new vaccines targeting the new variant, Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.1 and Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1, have arrived in Sweden but have not yet reached all health regions, meaning it is not certain that if you will currently receive the updated vaccine. 

A third vaccine, an adapted version of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), is expected to arrive in Sweden in October. 

READ ALSO: When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The höstdosen, or “autumn vaccine”

On September 1, the agency issued new guidelines for a höstdosen, or autumn vaccine dose.

During the campaign, all adults aged 18 and over who belong to an at-risk group are recommended to get a booster dose, as are seniors aged 65 and above. 

Risk categories include people who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have heart and lung diseases, or have Down syndrome.

You can get the autumn booster regardless of how many vaccine doses you may have received, which means it might be a fourth shot for some people, and a fifth for others.

The autumn vaccine is also available for those aged 18-64 who do not fall into any of the at-risk categories but would like a fourth dose. The Swedish Public Health Agency has said that regional health providers must make booster doses available to those who want them.

Chart showing recommended vaccination schedules. Chart: Folkhälsomyndigheten

Chart showing recommended vaccination schedules. Chart: Swedish Public Health Agency

How do I get an appointment for the autumn dose? 

Region Stockholm has been offering appointments for an autumn vaccination to everyone over 18 since September 12th. You can book a dose through the Alltid Öppet app

In Region Skåne, the region responsible for healthcare in Malmö and Lund, appointments for an autumn vaccine have been available since August 22nd. Appointments are available for vaccinations in Region Stockholm, as are drop-in times at locations listed on 1177.se.

In Region Västergötland, the region responsible for healthcare in Gothenburg, health centres, or vårdcentraler, are prioritising people aged 80 and older.

Those in other categories, including at-risk adults 18 and older and seniors over 65, are requested to make their vaccination appointments with other providers through 1177.se

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