“I want to remind you that elderly care facilities are people's homes. To decide over whether you can have guests is a very far-reaching measure,” the country's prime minister Stefan Löfven said at a press conference announcing the change.
Sweden imposed a ban on care home visits on April 1st as infections began to spread in facilities across the country, but that nationwide ban was lifted on October 1st.
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The possibility to bring in local bans will come into effect on November 21st and stay in force until next February.
The Public Health Agency's director Johan Carlson said that the April ban had been too blunt a tool.
“It was brought in in haste, you could say, when the pandemic hit us. Even if we now make local vist bans possible, my belief is that they should be as short as possible,” he said.
Health minister Lena Hallengren said that the agency should design the bans in coordination with local infectious diseases units, allowing individual municipalities and regions to bring in bans as necessary.
“It would be possible to make exceptions for the very closest relatives,” Hallengren said. “We have come to the judgement that spouses should be able to meet despite a visit ban.”
She said that infection reduction routines and other safeguards had improved enormously since the spring, with more than 150,000 care staff receiving hygiene education.