Police in Sweden brace for violence ahead of Saturday protests against Covid measures

Police in Sweden fear that protests planned for Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö on Saturday, may turn violent, as opponents of coronavirus restrictions join a global rally.

Police in Sweden brace for violence ahead of Saturday protests against Covid measures
Several police officers were injured in the anti lockdown demonstration on March 6th. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

“We’re expecting a lot of people, with a risk of crowing, and we are definitely going to need to remove people from the area,” Peter Ågren, who is leading the policing of the demo in Stockholm, told Sweden’s TT newswire.

Several police officers were injured at the last demonstration against restrictions, the so-called Thousand-man March for Freedom and Truth, on March 6th in Stockholm, when about 500 people attended the protest. Some of the demonstrators are suspected of crimes including violent rioting.

“We saw at the demonstration on March 6th that there are people who are ready to use violence against the police, and who did so,” said Ågren.

Demonstrations have been called in more than 40 countries under the World Wide Rally for Freedom banner, with demonstrations in Sweden being arranged in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, and perhaps in other cities. 

In Stockholm, the arrangers have not asked for permission, and according to Ågren, the demonstration is likely to break the eight-person limit on public gatherings.

“We’re struggling a bit, because there’s no party we can plan this together with so that the demonstrations can be carried out in a way that limits the spread of infection and follows the rules imposed during the pandemic.”

The leaders of the initiative are thought to be based in Kassel, Germany, and according to the investigative website Expo, the movement in Sweden includes people from the extreme-right, conspiracy theorists, and new age spiritualists who believe in alternative medicine.

Ågren said that police would be compelled to break up any group of more than eight people, but he said that his own officers would also have to make sure they were not exposed to infection.

“It makes it harder for us,” he said. “We can’t put them in a situation where the risk of infection in increased.”

He said that police would try to explain to demonstrators that they were breaking restrictions which are there to prevent the spread of infection.

“The challenge for us is that these are people who deny that there’s any problem.”

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New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.