Sweden’s new pandemic law could come into force in two weeks

Sweden's new pandemic law could come into force in two weeks
Health Minister Lena Hallengren at a press conference on Monday. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT
A new pandemic law that would give the Swedish government increased powers to fight the coronavirus outbreak is being fast-tracked to come into force in two weeks – if parliament signs off.

The Swedish parliament has been recalled from its Christmas recess to process the government's bill in the first week of January. If approved, the temporary law would apply from January 10th until September, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference on Monday.

When the idea for a new law to give the government more tools to tackle the pandemic was first proposed in October, ministers suggested it would not be ready until next summer. The date was then brought forward to mid-March amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in autumn and winter, and it has now been fast-tracked further.

The law is meant to make it easier for the government to make decisions – or delegate such decisions to local authorities when appropriate – on limiting numbers at, or as a last resort closing, shopping centres and other venues, and limiting public transport. People who break restrictions may be fined, said Hallengren.

The government could also make decisions to limit the number of people allowed in for example a park or a public square, but it could not impose a curfew which would go against Sweden's constitution which protects the right to free movement.

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The government's next step, if the bill is approved, will be to decide on legally binding rules for shops and shopping centres, said Business Minister Ibrahim Baylan. “Certain types of shopping venues, such as malls and department stores where the risk of spread of infection is high and where there is a lot of crowding,” he said.

The bill has now been submitted to the Council of Legislation and will after that be put to parliament for a vote in the new year. It was sent to 129 authorities and organisations for review in December, and Hallengren said the government had incorporated some of the feedback. This includes a two-week deadline before the government has to send a decision taken as part of these powers to parliament for review. It had originally asked for a month.

Last time the government tried to push through a coronavirus crisis law, back in April, Sweden's opposition and the Council of Legislation criticised it as too vague, and managed to add an amendment which meant that the government would have to take any measures it imposed to parliament for review within a couple of days.

The government argued that this requirement made the law in effect useless, and it expired in June without ever being used.

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  1. I’m in Sweden now and I live in Germany. In Stockholm is like the virus does not exist. I feel I’m living in a parallel world. There is no distance, mask, and even though some stores have alcohol gel, I never saw someone using it. It’s interesting how different the countries are. I wonder, is the Swedish way better? I feel I’m back to “normality”.

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