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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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.