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Swedish police report 100-guest party under pandemic law

Police in Malmö have reported a birthday party for over 100 people for breaking the eight-person restriction imposed under Sweden's pandemic law.

Swedish police report 100-guest party under pandemic law
Behrooz Hamzehi, the owner of the Amiralen venue, has struggled during the pandemic. Photo: Andreas Hillergren/TT
Police were called to Amiralen, a party venue in central Malmö, shortly after 8pm on Friday night after a dispute broke out among guests. Once there, they found tables laid for between 100 and 150 people. 
 
“We received information at 17.21pm that a large number of people had gathered there. But we didn't send any patrols then,” Rickard Lundqvist, a press spokesperson for Malmö police, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “It's the role of the regional authority to carry out inspections.” 
 
When police arrived they found no one hurt or injured. But when the arranger decided to end the party early, they helped him empty the venue. 
 
“It's not as if we were forcing people to leave, we were instead making sure that they went quietly,” Lundqvist said. “Currently, we do not suspect a crime based on our view of the course of events.”  
 
 
The officers did, however, note down details of what they had seen, which they have passed to Skåne's regional government. 
 
“They are the inspecting authority in questions regarding the temporary pandemic law,” Lundqvist said. 
 
Anna Carlsson, who is the national coordinator inspections under the new law, told Swedish Radio that it was unlikely that the organiser would be fined for a first time offence. 
 
“If it happens again, the regional authority can go forward with additional measures, such as that they might have to pay some kind of fine,” she said. 
 
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Behrooz Hamzehi, the owner of the Amiralen venue, told the newspaper that when he had agreed to hire out the venue several months ago, the contract had included a clause specifying that the arranger was responsible for complying with coronavirus regulations. 
 
“They have signed a contract saying they need to take responsibility for their guests and that there shouldn't be more than the number allowed under the law,” he said. 
 
He said he had reminded them of the eight-person limit when handing over the keys. 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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