State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that the downward trend Sweden has reported over recent weeks appeared to have stagnated, with the number of newly reported cases remaining steady.
“It is a bit worrying that the downward trend has tailed off. We will have a difficult situation regarding Covid for large parts of this winter,” he said.
Over the past 14 days, Sweden reported 387 confirmed Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
There are still variations around the country, and the figure was 525 per 100,000 residents and 465 in Västerbotten, where stricter local coronavirus measures were brought in on Tuesday in response to a sharp rise in cases and local outbreaks linked to schools and one workplace.
In response to a question from teachers' union magazine Läraren about the Västerbotten outbreak at schools, Tegnell said there was no current plan to introduce changes in the recommendations for schools.
“We still think that it is extremely important for children to go to school,” he said.
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One of the big challenges for Sweden will be keeping track of new variants of the coronavirus, Tegnell said.
A new requirement was introduced on Saturday for many foreign travellers to provide a negative Covid-19 test result in order to enter the country. Swedish citizens and non-citizens who live here are exempt, but everyone returning to Sweden after travel overseas should take two tests after arriving – one as soon as possible and a second one five days later – and isolate for at least seven days.
“If you want to have sufficient checks on new variants that come here, two tests are necessary,” Tegnell said.
Sweden has also announced new restrictions on long-distance travel ahead of the winter sports break, and a reporter from the TT newswire asked if it would have been more logical to ask people to stay home over the break rather than merely restrict crowding on trains.
“That isn't an easy question to answer. It sounds logical, but is it really better if Stockholmers stay in Stockholm and go to shopping centres rather than going to the mountains and staying in a cabin? Then there's the fact that it is important for wellbeing to be outside and move around, it's about balancing different factors,” Tegnell said.
Asked why there is no national recommendation against travel, he said the risk of such a recommendation was that “many more people would be crowded together in Stockholm, meet there, and that could have greater risks for spreading infection than going to ski resorts”.