The new limit is part of the Public Order Act and therefore is a law, not a recommendation like many of Sweden's coronavirus measures. People who violate the ban by organising larger events could face fines or even imprisonment of up to six months.
The law change will come into effect on November 24th and will initially apply for four weeks.
“It's going to get worse. Do your duty and take responsibility to stop the spread of infection. I'll say it again. It's going to get worse. Do your duty and take responsibility to stop the spread of infection,” said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at the press conference on Monday.
Sweden's limit on attendees at public events was reduced to 50 in March, and was raised to 300 in late October for certain types of seated events only — although several regions chose to keep the lower limit of 50.
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The ban applies to public events such as concerts, performances, and sports matches, but not to places like schools or workplaces or to private gatherings. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said “we can't regulate every social gathering” but urged people to follow the new limit at all kinds of events.
“There should not be social situations with more than eight people even if they are not formally affected by the law. This is the new norm for the whole society, for all of Sweden. Don't go to the gym. Don't go to the library. Don't have dinners. Don't have parties. Cancel,” he said.
This message was reiterated by the other ministers who took part in the press conference: Interior Minister Mikael Damberg, Financial Markets and Housing Minister and Green Party co-leader Per Bolund, Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren, as well as Johan Carlson, the general director of the Public Health Agency.
“These are very intrusive measures with no parallel in modern times,” said Damberg. “We don't take it lightly to limit people's rights […] but we see it as necessary.”
Bolund said that the measures would have a negative impact on the economy and that the government was ready to introduce further measures to support the worst-hit industries.
“How long we have to live with these measures depends on how well you take your own responsibility and show solidarity with others,” he said.
Hallengren said that the measures already in place, such as regional restrictions and national recommendations, had not had a sufficient impact.
“Over recent weeks, the recommendations have been sharpened and strong measures have been taken. Despite this, behaviour has not yet changed enough to turn the direction of the development. The curves are still going in the wrong direction,” She asked the Swedish population not to look for “loopholes” and do everything they can to curb the spread of the virus.
In the 20 regions affected by stricter local measures, there is also a recommendation to avoid close contact with people you do not live with.
An earlier exemption which meant restaurants were excluded from the limit on event attendees will also be removed when the law change comes into effect. Previously, restaurants have been allowed to host events for more than 50 people, but this will no longer be the case.
More than eight people will still be allowed in restaurants at the same time (although not as part of the same group) but the change means restaurants will in practice not be able to host events such as music performances due to the eight-person limit on events.
This new law change follows an announcement last week that Sweden would ban the sale of alcohol at bars, restaurants and pubs after 10pm. In connection with that announcement, Löfven gave a stark warning to residents of Sweden in a speech where he warned “every decision you make matters” and said that too many people had begun to relax.