‘We must adapt to the new reality’: Sweden rolls out new Covid measures

'We must adapt to the new reality': Sweden rolls out new Covid measures
Health Minister Lena Hallengren, left, and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at a press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
The Swedish government and Public Health Agency on Tuesday announced new Covid-19 measures ahead of Christmas, but stopped short of expanding the vaccine pass scheme to restaurants.

“The situation is concerning. The spread of infection is increasing rapidly and we are seeing an increased burden on healthcare. The spread of the new virus variant Omicron is troubling,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a press conference.

“I want to address the Swedish people now: We must take joint responsibility and adapt to the new reality right now,” she said, saying new pandemic measures were needed to “buy time”.

She presented a series of new measures, some of which will be introduced on December 23rd, including urging everyone who can to work from home. But plans to extend vaccine passes to venues such as restaurants and long-distance public transport have been put on hold, with Andersson saying the scheme could be extended after more people have had the chance to get a booster dose of the vaccine.

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From December 23rd, restaurants will have to return to table serving only, with one metre between groups of people. “That means there will unfortunately not be any partying in night clubs on New Year’s Eve,” said Andersson.

Shopping centres and cultural and leisure centers will also have to introduce measures to limit crowding.

Public events with more than 20 attendees must have assigned seating, regardless of whether or not they use vaccine passes for admission. If event organisers don’t use vaccine passes, groups must keep a distance to each other and be limited to eight people. Public events of more than 500 attendees must adopt all of these measures, including vaccine passes as well as limits on groups of people et cetera.

The Public Health Agency has also asked the government to introduce the following measures: A maximum of 50 people at private events held in rented venues, only seated passengers on long-distance public transport, and a requirement for both vaccinated and unvaccinated foreign tourists over the age of 12 to show a negative Covid PCR test no more than 48 hours old when travelling to Sweden.

The first two measures can only come into force by December 24th due to legal processes. Andersson said the third request would be handled “speedily” but did not say when the new travel restrictions would come into force.

Andersson and Health Minister Lena Hallengren clarified to The Local that the test requirement would apply only to tourists, not to foreign citizens who live in Sweden, but stressed that an additional recommendation to get tested after arriving in Sweden applies to everyone.

Noting that Sweden still was seeing relatively low levels of Covid-19, director of the country’s Public Health Agency, Karin Tegmark Wisell, said that the strain on Sweden’s healthcare had increased as a result of the novel coronavirus coupled with other viruses and the seasonal flu.

“We’re still seeing a considerable spread in Europe and our neighbouring countries. We have lower levels in Sweden but in the last few weeks we have also here seen a rapid increase in the rate of the spread, Tegmark Wisell said, adding that the number of new cases was expected to rise and that the situation was “ominous”.

Most of the measures were announced without an end date, but Hallengren told reporters that they did not wish to keep them “longer than necessary.”

The health agency director also noted that nearly 1.5 million Swedes were still not vaccinated.

The country of 10.3 million people is still seeing some of the lowest levels of new cases in Europe, according to the WHO, but it has seen an increase of 37 percent in the 14-day incidence rate, compared to the preceeding period.


Member comments

  1. I’ve got a question, for the negative tests for the vaccinated arriving to Sweden, is it for tourists only or for foreign nationals? For example a foreign residing in Sweden have to take the test before arrival? Thanks!

    When translating from this site: https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/nyheter-och-press/nyhetsarkiv/2021/december/flera-nya-atgarder-vidtas-den-23-december-nar-smittspridningen-vantas-oka/ it says like it’s for foreign in general (but I don’t speak Swedish)

    1. Hi Grace, our reporter asked about this at the press conference. The prime minister and health minister told us that the test *requirement* will apply only to tourists, not to foreign citizens who live in Sweden. (NB there is also an additional *recommendation* to get tested after arriving in Sweden which applies to everyone)

  2. The attitude towards this new Variant is very relaxed on the streets of Stockholm and with the Authorities . I have been trying to get the Booster but if it’s not that I was too young , it’s now the time period between the last vaccine and the Booster . I have to wait until next week Wednesday just to book a time , because I got the second Pfizer in the beginning of July . All my friends in London and New York have the booster , but Sweden is up to it’s tricks again . I have had Covid with two vaccines in me , and I hope I don’t get the new Variant because of this laid back confusing bureaucracy .

    1. Kio, you’ve had Covid AND two shots and you are desperate to get a third because your friends in London and New York have had theirs? Come on!! You need to focus on your own health and do your own research! If you did, you would find that the shot does not stop Omicron at all. Blindly shooting another, effectively out of date vaccine in your system now will not offer you any protection, it will only expose you for a third time to the myriad of adverse side effects from said shot..

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