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Swedish parliament gives green light to new pandemic law

Sweden's parliament on Friday voted in favour of a new pandemic law giving the government power to close certain businesses or limit visitor numbers and opening hours, which will come into effect from January 10th.

Swedish parliament gives green light to new pandemic law
Sweden's Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren speaks at the parliamentary debate. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Parliament was recalled from its Christmas recess for the first time since 2005 in order to debate the coronavirus bill.

“We know that Covid-19 is in the society and will be here for a long time to come. More precise measures are needed, that are possible to maintain over time,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said. A similar law in place over the summer expired without being used or extended, and the government has said this was too blunt a tool to be used effectively. 

The new pandemic law gives the government the possibility to shut down businesses, but Hallengren stressed that this is not the main goal of the legislation.

It also introduces extra measures, such as the possibility to introduce limits on visitor numbers or opening times in order to reduce the risk of infection spread.

These measures could be applied to places including public transport, shops and shopping centres, restaurants and bars, cinemas and theatres, museums and other cultural or sport venues. Although the government will not be able to set a limit on the number of people who can meet privately, the measures could be extended to limits at public parks, beaches, and premises such as the rooms available in many apartment blocks for private events and parties (festlokaler or 'party rooms').

The bill was slightly adapted after criticism from the opposition that it lacked clarity on compensation available to businesses affected by these limits. It now states that the government must look into the financial consequences on affected businesses, but future policies on compensation will be passed separately.

“Of course if you have shutdowns, you need to make sure to provide support. But we can not say exactly how much or what that support should look like,” Hallengren said.

Asked by public broadcaster SVT if the law would be used soon, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said: “It will be used in the near future.” 

Any measures introduced using the new law would be legally enforced. This means people could face sanctions and fines for violating them, which is not the case with the Public Health Agency's recommendations, the main tool used thus far as part of Sweden's non-coercive coronavirus strategy.

So far, Sweden has had to adapt other laws to make these kinds of changes, for example by banning the sale of alcohol after 10pm, then 8pm, and reducing the number of people allowed per group in restaurants to eight, then four. But this is a more time-consuming process, requiring each change to be put to parliament. Under the new law, it will be possible for the government to make these changes much faster.

The measures permitted still have limits however.

The government would not be able to introduce measures as restrictive as those in most countries, such as a curfew or limit on individuals leaving their homes.

The pandemic law will come into force on Sunday January 10th and applies until September 30th 2021.

If you have questions about the new pandemic law you would like us to try to answer, please email [email protected].

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COVID-19

When should I get my next dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden?

Covid-19 has not been classified as a "critical threat to society" in Sweden since April. But the Swedish Public Health Agency still recommends that everyone aged 12 and above get vaccinated. So when should you get your next dose?

When should I get my next dose of Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden?

As winter approaches, it’s a good time to check that you’re up to date on your booster shots.

If you’re aged 12 or older, the agency recommends that you should at least have completed your primary dose of the vaccine, which comprises two shots. Because vaccine efficacy wanes over time, if you are aged 18 and above, you should have already had your third dose.

The booster dose, called a påfyllnadsdos, can be administered a minimum of four months after the primary dose or the most recent booster. A booster shot is recommended even if you have tested positive for Covid-19 since your most recent vaccination, because the protection offered by a vaccine is more reliable than that offered by an infection.

The agency has also warned that the Omicron BA.5 variant spreads more easily than previous Covid-19 mutations.

Deliveries of two of the new vaccines targeting the new variant, Comirnaty Original/Omicron BA.1 and Spikevax bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1, have arrived in Sweden but have not yet reached all health regions, meaning it is not certain that if you will currently receive the updated vaccine. 

A third vaccine, an adapted version of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech), is expected to arrive in Sweden in October. 

READ ALSO: When will the new Covid-19 vaccines be available in Sweden?

The höstdosen, or “autumn vaccine”

On September 1, the agency issued new guidelines for a höstdosen, or autumn vaccine dose.

During the campaign, all adults aged 18 and over who belong to an at-risk group are recommended to get a booster dose, as are seniors aged 65 and above. 

Risk categories include people who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have heart and lung diseases, or have Down syndrome.

You can get the autumn booster regardless of how many vaccine doses you may have received, which means it might be a fourth shot for some people, and a fifth for others.

The autumn vaccine is also available for those aged 18-64 who do not fall into any of the at-risk categories but would like a fourth dose. The Swedish Public Health Agency has said that regional health providers must make booster doses available to those who want them.

Chart showing recommended vaccination schedules. Chart: Folkhälsomyndigheten

Chart showing recommended vaccination schedules. Chart: Swedish Public Health Agency

How do I get an appointment for the autumn dose? 

Region Stockholm has been offering appointments for an autumn vaccination to everyone over 18 since September 12th. You can book a dose through the Alltid Öppet app

In Region Skåne, the region responsible for healthcare in Malmö and Lund, appointments for an autumn vaccine have been available since August 22nd. Appointments are available for vaccinations in Region Stockholm, as are drop-in times at locations listed on 1177.se.

In Region Västergötland, the region responsible for healthcare in Gothenburg, health centres, or vårdcentraler, are prioritising people aged 80 and older.

Those in other categories, including at-risk adults 18 and older and seniors over 65, are requested to make their vaccination appointments with other providers through 1177.se

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