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

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 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 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.
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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New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.