TODAY: Table for one or four? How Sweden’s new coronavirus rules work

TODAY: Table for one or four? How Sweden's new coronavirus rules work
New corona rules come into effect on March 1st, 2021. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
From Monday March 1st, new coronavirus measures begin in Sweden, affecting how customers use restaurants and cafés. Here's what you need to know.

Table for one

Under the new rules put forward by the Public Health Agency last week, only one person should be served in restaurants and cafés that do not have their own entrances.

This means that you should eat alone at restaurants located in, for example, shopping centres and larger department stores, where the entrances are shared within another space. The rule doesn't apply to children or people in need of support.

This rule is connected to a recommendation for shoppers to go shopping alone, not with family or friends.

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Distance

All customers at restaurants and cafés should keep at least one metre apart from each other.

Closing times

All restaurants and cafés in Sweden have to close at 8.30pm and may not open until 5am the next morning.

The regulation will apply regardless of whether or not the venues serve alcohol. Sweden has previously banned bars and restaurants from serving alcohol after 8pm, but due to a loophole in the law they have been able to remain open much longer in the evening. They now have to shut their doors completely at 8.30pm.

The Public Health Agency says that takeaways can however be ordered after 8.30pm but customers must keep at least one metre apart from each other when picking up.

At these restaurants, the maximum limit of four people per group still applies.

Sport

As well as changes to cafés and restaurants, from Monday no competitive sport below elite level will be allowed to take place. This includes single matches for children born in 2005 or later, which were previously exempt.

Further potential measures

The Swedish Public Health Agency is in dialogue with the business community about further limiting the number of people allowed in stores and supermarkets and about infection control measures at workplaces. It's also working to tighten the rules for sports.

How long will it last?

All the changes take effect on Monday March 1st and according to Aftonbladet, will be in place until April 11th.

Sweden has famously relied on more voluntary measures than many other countries during the pandemic, arguing that they are easier to keep in place for a longer period of time. But it has step by step tightened its restrictions in recent months, including a Pandemic Law that would allow it to close certain venues.

Non-essential public services are among the places that are currently closed in Sweden.

“After a year with this virus, we know that we must keep our distance. That's the most effective measure to curb the spread of the virus,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

“This is not the time to relax. There must be no crowding, not at petrol stations or in shops, not anywhere.”

Sweden has now seen a rising number of cases for two weeks in a row, with an incidence rate of 445 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 14 days. Some regions, like Stockholm, have introduced regional measures, including urging people to wear face masks at all times on public transport and in close-contact situations.

There have been 657,309 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Sweden to date, and 12,826 people have died after testing positive.

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