No significant relaxation of Swedish coronavirus measures expected before summer

No significant relaxation of Swedish coronavirus measures expected before summer
Sweden's coronavirus strategy has focused on looser measures than most countries, intended to be more sustainable over a long time. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Sweden's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell warned that it's unlikely that there will be any relaxation of the country's coronavirus measures during spring.

The legally binding measures currently in place in Sweden include a ban on public events for more than eight people, a limit on the maximum number of customers allowed in shops or gyms, and social distancing rules in restaurants. Everyone in the country is also asked to work from home if possible, limit socialising to a small group of people, and avoid situations where crowding could occur, for example.

In an interview with Sveriges Radio's Godmorgon Världen, Tegnell said it was unlikely there would be any significant changes to the restrictions in place, “but rather above all ensuring that the ones we have in place are working”.

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He said this was the case even following outbreaks of a new variant of the coronavirus that is more highly contagious, pointing to the example of the UK, Ireland and Denmark which have been able to reduce the spread of infection even with this variant. Instead, restrictions and recommendations might be tightened or adapted slightly in response to local outbreaks, as has already happened in Västerbotten in northern Sweden.

But he said it was unlikely that there would be any relaxation of the coronavirus measures, particularly those relating to gathering in restricted numbers.

“The way things look now, I think it is optimistic to think that [larger events will be allowed] before summer,” Tegnell said.

“I find it hard to imagine that during spring we will be able to relax this kind of restriction for public events.”

As for events such as football matches or theatre, he said it was difficult to know if this will be able to go ahead over the next few months.

Over the autumn, Sweden prepared legislation to allow these kinds of seated events to go ahead with up to 300 spectators, under the condition that people were given allocated seats with a minimum one-metre distance between attendees.

But this never really came into practice, because the legislation was passed around the same time as a rise in new cases prompted tighter local coronavirus measures, with all public events kept to the former limit of 50 attendees before this was reduced to eight in December.

“It's possible to imagine that in very special circumstances, you could have some kinds of small audiences, maybe, at some kinds of events in spring, but that would require a very stable, low spread of infection for us to have that situation, and the way it looks now, the probability of that is not high,” Tegnell told the radio programme.

Instead, he said the big difference people could expect in spring was an increased possibility to meet elderly relatives or friends.

As of mid-February, around three quarters of care home residents have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“When they are protected, that group can begin to live a slightly more normal life – we are looking into exactly how that might work – and people will be able to meet their elderly relatives,” Tegnell said. “That will be important for many people.”

Sweden set the goal of offering the Covid-19 vaccination to all adults before the end of June, which Tegnell said was still possible but would depend on deliveries of vaccines happening on schedule.


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