A total of 515 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Sweden per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, the Public Health Agency said on Thursday.
According to the most recent data from the ECDC, that is a significantly higher transmission rate than Germany (130) and Denmark (118) for example, but not far ahead of France (432) and lower than the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovakia, Malta and Slovenia. The EU considers countries to be a ‘dark red’ zone if the 14-day rate is higher than 500 cases per 100,000, and has proposed introducing additional travel restrictions for these countries.
The rate varied between the regions within Sweden, with Norrbotten reporting 747 cases per 100,000 residents, Västra Götaland 647, Stockholm 552, and Skåne 440 for example.
When The Local asked what was thought to be behind the particularly high transmission rate in Norrbotten, Byfors said regional authorities were best placed to answer but that an outbreak at a battery manufacturer in neighbouring Västerbotten was a likely factor.
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According to Norrbotten region, a large proportion of transmission is currently taking place in Luleå.
A statement from the region said: “Some people are calling for increased restrictions, but from the infection tracking that is being done, it is clear that the existing restrictions would be sufficient if everyone followed them. The spread of infection occurs, for example, when we are crowded, travel together by car or go to work, even though we have the opportunity to work from home.”
Regional authorities urged people to follow the recommendations, avoiding environments where there is a possibility of crowding, and wearing face masks correctly.
“If you are invited to parties, conferences or anything else – say no and tell the person who arranges the event to cancel. It’s about taking responsibility,” the statement clarified.
In Norrbotten, around 14 percent of positive cases are currently the variant first discovered in the UK, but in other regions the figure is much higher, for example 60 percent in Gävleborg.
Asked by Expressen if there was community spread of the variation, Byfors said this was the case for the British variation, but not yet for those first identified in South Africa and Brazil.
The Local asked if the community spread in Sweden meant the Public Health Agency would request that the government scrapped an entry ban on travel from the UK and Norway – first introduced at the agency’s request to limit spread of the British variant, and currently in effect until March 31st – or expand the same rules to other European countries.
“I think we would have to look at those [bans] and see what is rational. We have entry bans from many other countries as well, outside the EU. We also have it because we want to avoid new variants to come into Sweden. We are looking at all our measures continuously and try to adjust them accordingly,” she said.
Byfors was also asked about reports of crowding in Sweden’s ski resorts, particularly during the winter sports break.
She said there would be no additional restriction on domestic travel, which is currently not recommended against as long as it is done “in an infection-safe way”. This means avoiding travel on public transport, avoiding all travel if symptomatic, avoiding close contacts with people outside your immediate family and friends both during the journey and at the destination, and ensuring you would be able to isolate and return home without having any close contacts should you develop symptoms.
“We still say that it is possible to carry out these trips if you do it in a good way,” said Byfors.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in the mountains or if you are at home, it is your behaviour that determines if you spread the infection. It is clear that if you gather a lot of people in one place, there is a greater risk of congestion, but by following the recommendations that exist, it does not have to be a bigger problem in the mountains than if you go to a shopping centre.”
The current national recommendation for shopping centres is to avoid them at busy times or if they are crowded, keep your visits as brief as you can, and only shop alone rather than with friends or family.