Expect Sweden’s coronavirus restrictions to last for months: Swedish PM

Expect Sweden's coronavirus restrictions to last for months: Swedish PM
Interior Minister Mikael Damberg, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, and head of border police Patrik Engström update the media. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
As Sweden extended its entry ban for a further 30 days, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven warned that people should expect the measures put in place due to the coronavirus to remain for a long time to come.

Löfven told a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the government had decided to extend the entry ban, which was to run out this week, for another 30 days.

The ban applies to people entering Sweden from outside the EEA and Switzerland, but does not apply to everyone. Citizens and residents of Sweden, as well as people with important reasons to come to Sweden will still be able to enter the country.

This exception also includes foreign workers whose jobs are deemed important to societal functions such as food supply, including agricultural workers.

The temporary entry ban was first introduced in response to calls from the European Commission and European Council for restrictions on travel into the EU. Sweden's government said it was “an exceptional measure that will not apply for longer than necessary”.

Since the ban came into force, police have stopped around 60 people from entering the country.


A lone staff member at Stockholm's Arlanda airport. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

 

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Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said: “The decision on the entry ban is in line with the recommendations of the EU Commission and applies mainly to persons outside the EU who wish to enter Sweden. This does not apply to EU citizens or people with particularly important reasons for entering Sweden, or to Swedes traveling home.

“It is important that we continue to act in a coordinated way within the EU to prevent the spread of infection. This is an exceptional measure and I hope it will be short-term.”

'Mentally prepare for months of restrictions'

At the press conference, Löfven also referred more generally to how long people should expect other coronavirus-related restrictions to remain in place. 

Unlike many other countries across Europe, Sweden is not under a lockdown, with restaurants and businesses still open and no restrictions on how often or for what reason people may leave their homes.

But restrictions from the government include a ban on public events of more than 50 people, table service only in bars and restaurants, a ban on visits to elderly care homes, and recommendations to close schools for over-16s and universities.


The Swedish parliament has reduced the number of MPs during the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

And everyone is also expected to follow recommendations from the Public Health Agency including keeping a distance from other people in public, practicing good hand hygiene, staying at home if showing any symptoms consistent with the virus, and working from home if possible.

Löfven said people should count on these measures being in place for some time to come.

“It is still far too early to ease restrictions and recommendations. Even though the sun is shining and you gave up your Easter holiday, it is not the time to celebrate May 1st,” the prime minister said, referring to the next public holiday in the Swedish calendar, which usually sees large demonstrations and marches around the country.

Mobile phone data from the Easter weekend showed a drastic fall in travel within the country, following repeated warnings from the government and healthcare authorities to stay at home.

“Keep in mind that this is not about you but about everyone's well-being. For the rest of our lives, we will remember spring 2020 as the time we all shared burdens and made sacrifices for each other,” Löfven added.

Asked how long the restrictions in Sweden will apply for, he reiterated that people should expect them to last for months.

“It is not possible to say how long, but it is better to mentally adjust to months, not weeks. It is about flattening the curve; then the healthcare system will be able to cope [with the number of cases] but it will take a longer time [for Sweden to get back to normal].”

Coronavirus analysis:

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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