Sweden's total coronavirus death toll has reached 12,370, with a total of 604,577 confirmed cases.
But state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that a downturn in newly reported cases had “unfortunately tailed off”.
“We still have a high spread of infection. If we look at admissions to intensive care [for Covid-19], it has gone down significantly, but here too the downturn has begun to tail off,” he said.
A representative for Sweden's regions, Anna Carlsson, warned that some businesses were confused over how to apply the pandemic law – which requires them to limit customer numbers based on usable space on the premises – and that customers and visitors do not always understand or follow the national recommendations.
“There is crowding in queues outside shops and shopping centres; many still choose to go shopping in groups or with the whole family, despite shops giving clear messages that you should not do this,” she warned, citing parcel collection points and gym receptions as specific areas that had difficulties managing crowding.
“We all need to follow the recommendations that exist, and that includes looking out for information on signs and above all, respecting it.”
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New variants become increasingly widespread
The agency also warned that the new variant of Covid-19 that was first discovered in the UK is now widespread in Sweden.
In Västra Götaland, the new variant made up one in five positive Covid-19 tests that were sequenced for it. The corresponding figure in Gävleborg was 16 percent, 12 percent in Skåne, and nine percent in Västmanland.
The main danger of the new variant is that it is thought to be more infectious than the original variant, with Tegnell saying different models show it could be between 30 and 70 percent more infectious.
Sweden is continuing to boost its capacity to test for new variants, and is currently sequencing around ten percent of positive tests – but this rate varies between regions.
A reporter from Reuters asked if the rise of the new variant might be the reason for the stagnated decline of new cases.
“It's hard to know, we have too little data for this kind of analysis,” Tegnell responded. “It's a bit mixed: some outbreaks where the British variant is behind it, but others where the original variant is behind it.”
Tegnell was also asked about a recent recommendation from the American CDC for the public to wear two face masks.
“If you double the density, you probably will get the number of virus particles down. It also means that respiratory resistance is twice as great, it is harder for the public to use face masks,” said Tegnell.
Four out of five care home residents vaccinated
A total of 331,389 people have been given at least one dose of vaccine, and 101,507 have been given both doses.
That means just over four percent of the adult population have received at least one dose. So far Sweden is in the first phase of the vaccination programme, meaning vaccines are being given to people resident in care homes for the elderly or receiving at-home care, as well as people who care for or share a household with this group.
Among residents of care homes for the elderly, 80 percent have received their first dose, and for people who receive at-home care the figure is one in three (32 percent).