“This is very worrying and could be a sign that we are entering a third wave […] We are getting signals that residents are no longer following the Public Health Agency’s recommendations to the same extent,” Eriksson warned, emphasising the importance of avoiding new social contacts (meeting people who do not belong to your household or close circle) and avoiding non-necessary travel.
He added that these recommendations will continue to apply during the winter sports break or sportlov, which in Stockholm takes place in this week March 1st-7th.
“If you have to travel, it has to be done in an infection-safe way,” said Eriksson.
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Public health advice is to use private means of travel if possible, and if possible avoid public transport during rush hour and use alternatives where it is possible to book a seat.
For long distance journeys, Sweden’s bus and train companies have been told to only book services at 50 percent of total capacity.
As of Wednesday, there were 266 Covid-19 patients in need of hospital care in the Stockholm region, including 39 in intensive care units.
The age group seeing the biggest rise in cases is adults of working age or 18-49.
“I would like to see everyone in the media, everyone who has had Covid-19 or who works in healthcare to keep reminding everyone else about what a terrible disease this is,” said Eriksson, who noted that even if younger adults are less likely to experience severe illness from Covid-19, a high level of infection among this demographic increases the risk of exposure among more vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile, the vaccine programme has been forced to adapt in the capital region after a 77.5 percent decrease in the expected vaccine deliveries for February.
“When there is such a significant change, it is very difficult to plan for vaccinations,” the region’s vaccine coordinator Magnus Thyberg said at the briefing. He said Stockholm still had the goal of vaccinating all residents over 18, as well as under-18s who belong to a risk group, in the first six months of the year, but that this was dependent on receiving the promised deliveries.
Stockholm currently plans to offer the vaccine to phase 2 (which includes over-65s and healthcare workers) from mid-March; to phase 3 (including people who belong to a risk group or would have difficulty following the national recommendations, as well as people over 60) from April, and to the rest of the population from April or May.