Sweden plans stricter Covid measures ‘next week’ amid rise in infections

Swedish Health Minister Lena Hallengren, left, and the Public Health Agency's director-general Karin Tegmark Wisell. Photo: Duygu Getiren/TT
Sweden is considering rolling out new guidelines and restrictions amid a renewed rise in Covid-19 infections, health chiefs told a press conference on Thursday.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren told reporters that the government “could relatively soon be forced to introduce new restrictions” due to an increase in Covid-19 infections in Sweden and elsewhere, with some regions reporting renewed pressure on their healthcare services.

“We’re facing an uncertain winter,” she said.

The Public Health Agency’s director-general Karin Tegmark Wisell said that the agency may roll out new guidelines as early as “next week” to curb the outbreak.

Initially, all adults may be urged to keep a distance in public and avoid crowded places, to choose other means of transport than public transport if possible, and to use face masks if crowding can’t be avoided on public transport.

Employers may also be told to arrange online rather than in-person meetings, and to make it possible for staff to keep a distance and to “a certain extent” work from home.

Tegmark Wisell said that additional measures could be introduced at a later stage if the outbreak continues to worsen.

As of December 1st, a valid Covid-19 vaccine pass is required in Sweden at indoor public events and public gatherings of over 100 people that don’t have any other infection control measures in place, such as social distancing or a limit on the maximum number of people allowed per group.

The government is preparing legislation to extend vaccine pass rules to other venues such as restaurants if it is considered necessary.

Sweden’s 14-day incidence rate last week stood at 184 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people, up from 125 the previous week, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The country has recorded more than 1.2 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Four cases of the new Omicron variant have so far been confirmed in Sweden, but Delta is still the dominant variant. Omicron has been labelled a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation and it may be more contagious, but a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Sweden on November 30th stepped up its Covid-19 testing recommendations for international travellers, urging all arrivals from non-Nordic countries to get a Covid-19 test as soon as possible after arriving in Sweden, preferably on the first day if possible. People who have been to certain countries in southern Africa are additionally urged to self-isolate and get a second test on the fifth day after arriving.

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