Sweden’s coronavirus measures could remain in place for ‘at least another year’

Sweden's coronavirus measures could remain in place for 'at least another year'
Public Health Agency director-general Johan Carlson speaking at a press conference last month. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT
Sweden's measures to curb the spread of coronavirus will likely remain in place for "at least another year", with the possibility of additional local restrictions, the country's public health director said.

Sweden never introduced a hard lockdown as many other European countries did when the coronavirus pandemic reached the continent in spring, and it is unlikely to do so in the future, even as cases rise.

But some local restrictions may be implemented in the coming months.

Many European countries are ramping up coronavirus restrictions to combat a post-lockdown rise in infections. In Sweden, most restrictions would probably be at a local or regional level, and could include limits on groups, or recommendations not to use public transport at all or advising people only to go to the shops to buy food.

Public Health Agency director-general Johan Carlson explained the potential measures in an interview with public broadcaster SVT on Sunday evening, and said the current recommendations are intended to be long-term.

“We can expect that measures against the spread of corona will remain for some time, we're talking about at least another year. The measures that are being taken in Europe are not sustainable, we're trying to find a level that is steady and that keeps the spread down. We can't get rid of it, but we can keep it down at a reasonable level,” he said.

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Sweden was long spared the second wave of the coronavirus as seen in many other countries, but positive cases are again on the rise. Sweden only updates its data Tuesday-Friday, but as of Friday last week a total of 94,283 people had tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the outbreak, out of which 5,895 people died.

Some of the increase has been linked to regional cluster outbreaks (including sport clubs and university parties), but health officials have also tentatively linked it to more people returning to the workplace after the summer holidays – despite the fact that official recommendations still state that everyone should work from home if possible until at least the end of the year. When The Local quizzed 100 readers, 67 said they worked remotely all or almost all the time between March and August, but that number fell to only 35 from September onwards.

“A certain fatigue is setting in, this has been going on for a number of months,” said Carlson. “But we are not seeing anger or aggression, we're not seeing the same reactions as in Europe.”

The government lifted a nationwide ban on visits to elderly care homes on October 1st (but individual care homes may still have restrictions or guidelines in place for visitors), but other rules and recommendations, such as social distancing rules for restaurants or guidelines advising people to work from home if they can, remain in place.

But Sweden also tightened its restrictions on people who live in the same household as someone infected with the coronavirus last week, which means a doctor can now order household members to stay at home, and they would get compensated for salary loss (children are exempted from the new rules).

A government decision on whether or not to raise the limit of the number of people who are allowed to attend public events is expected to come next week, but only if the coronavirus situation allows.


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