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Today in Sweden: A round-up of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on in Sweden today with The Local's short round-up of the news in less than five minutes.

Today in Sweden: A round-up of the latest news on Friday
A man sells Christmas trees in a Stockholm square on Thursday. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Sweden rolls out new coronavirus restrictions

In a major U-turn, the Public Health Agency will recommend the use of face masks on public transport at certain times, primarily rush hour. The new guidelines will be presented before many people return to work after the Christmas break on January 7th, the agency's director Johan Carlson said.

The news about face masks came at a government press conference with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven as well as the Deputy Prime Minister, Health Minister, Education Minister, and general director of the Public Health Agency, where several more changes to the national recommendations were announced:

  • A ban on post-8pm alcohol sales at bars and restaurants (currently banned after 10pm) from December 24th
  • There will be a maximum limit on people who can be in shops or gyms at the same time
  • Upper secondary schools will continue distance learning until at least January 24th (currently until January 6th)
  • A maximum of four people will be allowed per group at restaurants (currently the maximum is eight people)

We've written more about the new measures here.

Sweden set to start coronavirus vaccinations on December 27th

Sweden, like other EU states, is currently waiting for the European Medicines Agency to give the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is expected to come next week.

The plan is for delivery to get under way on Christmas Eve, and for all member countries to start vaccinating on December 27th. But Sweden's vaccine coordinator Richard Bergström told Swedish public radio broadcaster SR on Thursday that vaccinations in Sweden could start as early as Boxing Day, December 26th.

Swedish vocabulary: Christmas Eve – julafton

Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Sweden's second wave hit harder than agency's 'worst case scenario'

Earlier in the year, Sweden's Public Health Agency presented three possible scenarios of how the coronavirus might spread in the autumn: a very low spread based on the low spread in summer; a series of cluster outbreaks; or an even spread of the virus across the country.

At the time, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told public broadcaster SVT: “When calculating [epidemiological models], you make a number of assumptions and we have been quite conservative. The development will probably be much better.”

The government instructed authorities to prepare for these scenarios. But regional authorities warned as early as the end of September that the situation was getting worse than forecast, SVT's investigation shows, and instead Sweden has seen high levels of spread across all regions, creating a high burden for healthcare.

Asked about the discrepancy between the models and the actual second wave, Tegnell told the broadcaster yesterday: “The infection has been more efficient in spreading during the autumn than we could believe based on what we learned during the spring.”

In the summer, it was likely a combination of improved weather conditions and sufficient changes to behaviour that brought the level of spread down, the agency and other experts have said.

Swedish vocabulary: second wave – andra våg

Sweden extends travel ban – and adds post-Brexit exemption

Sweden has extended its entry ban for non-EU countries until March 31st next year.

The ban follows recommendations by the EU Commission and Council, but there are exemptions including for people living in eight countries, or people who are for example moving to live in Sweden, working in certain key jobs, or travelling for urgent family reasons, regardless of which country they are resident of or travelling from.

Also in Thursday's announcement, the Swedish government added a post-Brexit exception for some British citizens. This means that even after the Brexit transition period ends of December 31st, those Brits who are entitled to residence status in Sweden will remain exempt.

Swedish vocabulary: residence status – uppehållsstatus

Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Pregnant people urged to be 'extra careful' over Covid-19 in Sweden

The spread of the coronavirus in Sweden is almost at the same level it was in April during the peak of the first wave.

The Public Health Agency has now warned pregnant women to be “extra careful not to get sick with Covid-19”. The agency has never officially named pregnant women a high risk group as in other countries, previously saying there was no data showing a higher than average risk of serious illness.

In the new decision, the agency says: “New studies show that pregnant women have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19, which may mean an increased risk of the baby being born prematurely”. It urges pregnant women to follow recommendations such as social distancing extra carefully.

A previous decision by Sweden's work environment watchdog means that pregnant women should not have to carry out tasks that risk exposing them to the coronavirus in the workplace.

Swedish vocabulary: pregnant – gravid

Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

More rapid tests in healthcare sector

More 'rapid tests' or antigen tests for Covid-19 — which give an initial result within 15 minutes — will be used within the medical and care sectors, the government and Sweden's Municipalities and Regions (SKR) announced on Thursday.

The goal is to identify infected but asymptomatic staff more quickly to reduce the likelihood of them passing on the virus. These tests are not considered as reliable as the PCR tests, but the latter can take several days for a result. Rapid tests have already been rolled out in some places, including the Skåne and Stockholm regions.

Swedish vocabulary: reliable – pålitlig

Photo: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader/TT

2020 was a record year for shootings

Sweden reached a sad record this year, with statistics from the government showing 339 shootings took place up until the end of November, compared to 297 in the same period the year before and 280 in 2018. There were 42 deaths from shootings, and a further 107 injuries, although the development varies between regions, with numbers having risen in Stockholm but decreased in Skåne for example.

The Interior Minister Mikael Damberg said on Thursday he wanted more police presence in areas with a high crime rate as well as more camera surveillance.

Swedish vocabulary: shooting – skjutning

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