Sweden plans new pandemic law to limit numbers on public transport and in shops

Sweden plans new pandemic law to limit numbers on public transport and in shops
Health Minister Lena Hallengren believes the law might not be ready until the summer. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
Sweden's government plans to bring in a temporary pandemic law allowing it to limit numbers of people on public transport, in shopping centres, and in swimming pools.
Sweden's minister for health and social affairs, Lena Hallengren, said that the government had decided that existing infectious diseases and public order legislation did not give it sufficient powers to properly handle the pandemic. 
 
“None of the laws we have cover all the activities and institutions which we would want to regulate during the pandemic. We need more tools in the box,” she told the TT newswire after Dagens Nyheter was first to report the new law.
 
Sweden passed an emergency pandemic law on April 16th which would have allowed it to close ports, schools, gyms, restaurants, shops and other businesses, but the law expired on June 30th without ever being used. Under existing legislation, the government also has power to make certain decisions such as placing a cap on numbers allowed at public events — currently set at 50.

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It is not currently clear what form the new law would take, but the intention is to be able to make changes like introducing limits on numbers allowed in certain situations, or opening hours, more quickly if needed.
 
Lena Hallengren said she hoped the new law would be ready by next summer, meaning it is unlikely be in place in time to control the current resurgence in infections in the country. 
 
“The law limits people's freedom of movement, to meet others and also business freedom. That's why it can't be done in just a few weeks,” she told TT. 
 
She told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that the legislation also crossed into constitutional territory, making it important to get it right. 
 
“This is a complicated piece of legislation which should be handled gently because it limits freedoms protected by the constitution,” she said. 
 
Citizens' right to free movement within the country is protected under the constitution, and the right to run a business or practice a profession can only be limited “to protect an important public interest”. 
 
Asked why it had taken the government so long to start work on the new law, Hallengren said that the pandemic was still in its early stages. 
 
“We're probably not even in the middle of it. Rather, we still have a long time left until the pandemic is over,” she said. 
 

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