Sweden continues with Covid-19 re-opening plan: Here’s what changes

As of July 15th, Sweden moves to the next stage in its Covid-19 re-opening plan, which means some restrictions are being lifted, though national guidance to keep a distance from others still applies.

Sweden continues with Covid-19 re-opening plan: Here's what changes
The number of people allowed per group at events increases to eight today, with one metre's distance still mandated between groups. Photo: Ali Lorestani/TT

The government confirmed at the start of the week that Sweden would go ahead with the next stage of the plan because benchmarks linked to key criteria, such as the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 and the incidence rate (new cases per 100,000 people) had been met.

The key changes are as follows:

  • The number of people who can be considered part of the same ‘group’ at public events, like a football match or concert, is raised to eight. There must still be a one metre distance between separate groups.
  • Long distance transport may now run at full capacity, after being limited to 50 percent of its tickets.
  • The limit on the number of customers per square metre at shops, gyms, museums, hairdressers and other similar venues is removed. You should still keep distance from others and avoid going in if there is any risk of crowding.
  • Municipalities lose their power to issue bans on visiting public spaces; previously local councils were allowed to do this in parks or bathing areas when there was a risk of crowding.

In addition to these changes, many of the national recommendations (which are not legally enforced, but are not intended as optional) and laws (which are legally enforced) remain in place.

The key remaining legal restrictions are as follows:

  • Groups dining indoors at a restaurant or bar must be no more than eight people, with one metre between groups.
  • Public events and gatherings are limited to a maximum of 3,000 people if audiences are seated outdoors; 300 people for indoor seated events (including funerals and weddings, if seated services); 600 people for outdoor non-seated events; and 50 people for indoor non-seated events (including private parties). For races or outdoor sports competitions, up to 900 people are allowed and for outdoor demonstrations, up to 1,800 people are allowed. 

The key national recommendations you should still be following as a private individual also include:

  • Work from home if possible.
  • Keep distance from others in public. 
  • When meeting people outside your closest circle, meet outdoors if possible and keep a distance.
  • Stay at home if you have any symptoms that could be linked to Covid-19, and take a Covid-19 test.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”