‘Avoid contact with all but your family’: Uppsala becomes first Swedish region to get local coronavirus measures

'Avoid contact with all but your family': Uppsala becomes first Swedish region to get local coronavirus measures
An Uppsala University student at a formal event. Photo: Tor Johnsson/SvD/TT
Swedish health authorities have instructed people living in the Uppsala region to avoid public transport, parties, and contact with people outside their household for two weeks, becoming the first Swedish region to introduce local coronavirus measures after it became possible this week.
“This is not a lockdown, because a lockdown implies that you are shutting down the whole of society, which is not what we’re doing here,” Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said at a press conference announcing the new measures. 

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From October 20th until November 3rd, people living in Uppsala are strongly advised to: 
  • avoid physical contact with people they do do not live with 
  • to avoid organising or taking part in parties or other social activities 
  • avoid travelling on public transport 
This is a step beyond the national recommendations, under which everyone in Sweden is still urged to keep a distance on public transport, limit social contacts and to avoid 'large' social gatherings. Neither the national recommendations and the new guidelines for Uppsala are legally enforced, however Swedish authorities have stressed that they should not be considered optional and everyone should follow them.
According to the statement from the Public Health Agency, the decision will also involve stricter recommendations for shops, sports facilities, and workplaces in Uppsala. These places should limit the number of visitors present at the same time, and if possible everyone should work from home.

Although the decision applies for two weeks to begin with, it could be extended further.
Necessary physical contact, such as visits to GPs and medical examinations, should continue as normal. Tegnell also said that students should continue to participate in studies in whatever way has been working thus far, whether that is 100 percent distance learning or a mixture of distance and in-person studies. 

Travel to and from the Uppsala region is not affected.
At the press conference, Tegnell said that contact tracing in Uppsala had identified social events as one of the main risk areas.  
“These are the two areas that the statistics from Uppsala shows us very clearly that there is a spread, and they are also areas where we think that there is a possibility to get a change of behaviour that will impact the disease spread in Uppsala, we hope.” 
Asked by The Local whether a cafés, restaurants, or nightclubs would be expected to close in an area if the agency issued a strong local recommendation to avoid them, Tegnell said that this would be up to the owners. 
“It would be very much up to the respective establishment whether to close down or not, but history tells us from the spring that a number of them would close, because they would get so few customers,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to be sure of anything, but it’s certain different points here we have discussed through and through and think that these two [measures, to limit social events and public transport usage] are reasonable at this stage. 

“Of course we don’t know, but these are the two areas that the statistics from Uppsala show us very clearly that there is a spread and it's also areas when we think that there is a possibility to get a change of behaviour that will impact the diesease spread in Uppsala, we hope. We will follow up and see.”

The new measures apply in addition to the national measures which remain in place throughout the country, including recommendations to avoid public transport in rush hour, avoid large gatherings, and work from home.

The decision was taken in Uppsala based on a recent rise in coronavirus infections, which authorities said was causing pressure on the region's healthcare sector. This makes the region the first in Sweden to introduce local coronavirus measures, after a new framework which makes this possible came into force on Monday.

“We do not rule out that this may become relevant in more regions. What is now happening in Uppsala, which we do not see in other places, is an increased pressure on healthcare,” Tegnell explained.

Do you live in Uppsala? We want to know how you feel about the recommendations: how will they affect your life, and do they change how safe you feel? Get in touch by emailing [email protected] with the subject line 'Uppsala'.

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