The three regions are Halland, Jönköping and Örebro. This means eight out of Sweden's 21 regions are now covered by local restrictions, also including Stockholm, Uppsala, Skåne, Västra Götaland and Östergötland.
The news was announced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon by Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Health Minister Lena Hallengren and Public Health Agency director-general Johan Carlson.
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The exact measures are decided by regional authorities together with the Public Health Agency, and vary between regions. But some common factors include avoiding physical contact with people you do not live with, and that employers should ensure that employees are able to work from home if the nature of their work allows.
“Everything we're doing now is going to make a difference for how we get to celebrate Lucia and Christmas,” said Löfven as he urged everyone in Sweden to make a greater effort to follow local and national guidelines.
The news comes as Sweden faces a concerning increase in coronavirus infections, but also an increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital and intensive care. A total of 134,532 people have tested positive to date, including 5,969 fatalities and 2,750 intensive care admissions, according to the Public Health Agency.
“We know how dangerous [Covid-19] is, we have nearly 6,000 people dead,” said Löfven.
The new recommendations for Jönköping, Halland and Örebro are effective immediately and include:
- Refrain from being in indoor environments such as shops, shopping centres, museums, libraries, swimming pools and gyms, with the exception of necessarily visits to grocery stores and pharmacies.
- Refrain from taking part in for example meetings, concerts, shows, sports training, matches and competitions. This does not apply to sports training for children and young people born 2005 or later.
- If possible, avoid physical contact with other people than the ones you live with. That includes, among other things, a recommendation against organising or attending a party or similar social occasion.
- Businesses, organisations, and workplaces should also take measures to ensure that visitors or employees are able to follow the local coronavirus recommendations. This could include limiting the number of visitors and making sure staff can work from home.
These measures initially apply until November 24th, but could be further extended after that date depending on how the virus is spreading.
With these additions, that means eight of Sweden's 21 regions are currently subject to stricter restrictions, which are not legally binding, so there are no fines for violating them, but are at the same time not considered optional.
Britte Bråstad, chief legal officer for the Public Health Agency, described the measures – which are called local allmänna råd or 'general recommendations' – as “something in between regulations and recommendations” in an interview with The Local in October. “You could say it's a 'strong recommendation',” she said at the time.
Everyone in Sweden, regardless of where they live, is still expected to also follow the national restrictions and guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus. Read more about Sweden's coronavirus guidelines on The Local or via Krisinformation, Sweden's official website for emergency information from authorities.
At the same press conference on Tuesday, Löfven, Hallengren and Carlson announced tougher coronavirus measures for restaurants in Sweden, with a new rule that only groups of eight people or fewer will be permitted.
Restaurants are already under special measures to reduce the spread of infection, which include a minimum one-metre distance between groups. Unlike many of Sweden's other measures, these rules are legally enforceable.
The Local asked state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at Sweden's biweekly press conference later on Tuesday for clarification on whether the local recommendation to avoid indoor environments applied to restaurants.
“Restaurants are regulated according to other laws and regulations, that's why it's not repeated [in the local recommendations]. And also for most of the regions we have talked to, they don't really see in their contact tracing that restaurants are a major cause of spread of the disease and that's why we have not repeated the advice here. There is lots of advice on how to avoid the spread in restaurants,” he said.