Sweden could face new restrictions as Covid hospitalisations surge

Covid-19 hospital admissions are on the rise in almost all of Sweden, and if the increase continues more restrictions could be in the pipeline, warns the Public Health Agency.

Sweden could face new restrictions as Covid hospitalisations surge
File photo of oxygen tubes at a hospital in Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

A total of 473 Covid-19 patients were being treated in Swedish hospitals on Monday, up from 354 last week, according to figures from the Public Health Agency. Of those, 60 were in intensive care units, up from 46 last Monday. Beware that the exact numbers may vary depending on how quick Sweden’s 21 regions are to update their own figures, so they may not be entirely up to date.

The Public Health Agency’s director-general Karin Tegmark Wisell warned that there’s a risk that restrictions will need to be stepped up if the numbers continue to increase when the agency presents its winter forecast to the government early next week.

“If it continues this way it is possible we will soon need to return to further measures,” Tegmark Wisell told TT on Tuesday.

Sweden’s hospitalisation rate is currently low compared to previous peaks and to many other European countries – but it is increasing fast, and the National Board of Health and Welfare predicts that the burden on healthcare will increase over Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

In the Stockholm region, both the Södersjukhuset and Danderyd hospitals entered so-called stabsläge on Tuesday – essentially a heightened state of preparedness to quickly be able to decide on the reallocation of internal resources and to call in extra staff.

“The situation is challenging, with both Covid-19 and the seasonal flu affecting both patients and staff,” said Danderyd Hospital’s CEO Yvonne Haglund Åkerlind in a statement.

Some of the restrictions and recommendations that may be introduced in Sweden if the situation worsens include rolling out vaccine passes to venues such as restaurants and long-distance public transport, strengthening work-from-home guidelines and partly returning to distance teaching at universities.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”