'Don't meet new people this summer': Sweden's latest warning to residents

The Local Sweden
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'Don't meet new people this summer': Sweden's latest warning to residents
People crowd at a central swimming spot in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

With domestic travel rising in Sweden, the Public Health Agency has urged people in the country to continue social distancing and avoid meeting new people in order to reduce the risk of a second wave of the coronavirus.


The key pieces of advice were to act responsibly when travelling and avoid meeting new people -- as well as continuing to follow earlier guidelines around hygiene and social distancing.

"The message is: travel responsibly, avoid crowded places, stay at home if you're sick, and avoid contact with people you don't normally have contact with. Don't make new acquaintances on holiday," said Johan Carlson, general director of the Public Health Agency.

Unlike other countries, Sweden has never imposed official limits or even guidelines on the number of people or households that can meet, but has for several months asked residents to avoid large gatherings and crowded spots and limit their social contacts, meeting only with a small circle of close friends and family.


Sweden is still seeing a steady fall in deaths, intensive care admissions and serious cases linked to the coronavirus. But ahead of the summer, the Public Health Agency stressed that these positive developments were the result of social distancing, which was important to continue.

"The Swedish situation is more positive at the moment. We have a very low number of serious [coronavirus] cases, and mild cases have also fallen sharply over the past few days," Carlson said.

"This is the effect of social distancing, the physical distance between people, being followed. People need to keep following this. We've received signals that it's working less well at certain holiday spots," he warned.

One example was Öland, a popular island off Sweden's east coast where the region had reported difficulties in ensuring holidaymakers keep apart.

At the same press conference, the Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) shared results from their regular surveys of the population, which suggested that almost half (45 percent) of people in Sweden plan to carry out one or more domestic trips this summer.

Combined with mobile data showing an increase in travel, and reports from the tourism industry of more overnight stays being carried out, it's clear that people in Sweden are beginning to travel more.

"We continue to ask that when you're outside in Sweden, keep a distance from everyone. Be helpful and tell someone in a friendly manner if they come too close to you. It's important that organisers, business owners and travel agencies make it easy for customers to keep distance," said the MSB's Stefan Anering. 

Sweden has not specified an exact distance which people should aim to keep, again in contrast to other countries. The Public Health Agency has generally suggested that "an arm's length" is sufficient, while healthcare service 1177 and several regions have asked people to keep two metres apart from others as much as possible.

Within cafes and restaurants, new rules that came into force this week mean that business owners must ensure one metre's distance between different groups. 


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