Sweden extends pandemic law for four more months

Sweden's parliament voted on Wednesday to extend the country's pandemic law for four months, giving it the opportunity to introduce further restrictions if the Covid-19 situation requires.

Sweden extends pandemic law for four more months
A sign tells visitors to a Stockholm supermarket that a maximum of ten shoppers are allowed at a time under the pandemic law. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The pandemic law gives the government power to introduce extra measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including limiting the opening hours or number of people allowed at gyms, shops and other businesses, and in public spaces like parks and beaches.

It was first passed in December 2020 (but only actually came into effect from January), after ministers first suggested it should come into force from summer 2021, but it was fast-tracked amid an autumn resurgence of the virus.

It was this law that allowed the government to limit visitors at gyms and shops to a maximum of one per ten square metres, for example, but some of the restrictions made possible by the law were never implemented as they were not judged necessary to curb the spread of infection.

Parliament has now voted to extend the law for four months past its initial expiry date of September 30th, even though at this point there will be no restrictions in place under the law.

Also on Wednesday, parliament voted to extend the law on temporary infection control measures at restaurants, bars and pubs.

The parliament’s Social Affairs Committee also asked the government to submit a report to parliament on how the laws have been used by November 12th at the latest. Based on this, the committee will assess whether there is a reason to keep the laws in place for the full four months, and will propose that parliament repeals them earlier than January if not.

Sweden plans to lift most of its remaining restrictions from September 29th, including the removal of distancing regulations at restaurants for example, and the parliamentary vote does not change this.

However, it means that the government will still have the legal possibility to re-introduce these measures if needed.

Member comments

  1. I don’t know about the attitude of Swedes to Covid . I stayed at a Stockholm Hotel over the summer , and the place was packed with families with young children . There was no Social Distancing and the only people wearing Masks were German Tourists . I had the two Jabs in my system and still caught the Virus which made my life a misery for weeks . Thank God I had the Vaccine or I would have been dead , and I can not be the only one that got infected in that Hotel .I dont think Sweden will ever take the Virus seriously , as I know a lot of people that have caught it and just stayed at home for two weeks pooping Aspirins like I did .

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.