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COVID-19 ALERT

Sweden to lift nearly all Covid-19 restrictions next week

The Swedish government announced plans to remove the majority of restrictions against Covid-19 on February 9th in a press conference on Thursday morning.

Sweden to lift nearly all Covid-19 restrictions next week
Health Minister Lena Hallengren, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and Director General of the Public Health Agency Karin Tegmark Wisell at Thursday's press conference. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Health Minister Lena Hallengren and the Director General of the Public Health Agency, Karin Tegmark Wisell, announced that almost all restrictions will be removed on February 9th, and that those working from home should prepare to return to work.

“We can open up society”

“The pandemic is not over, but is entering a completely new phase,” said Andersson. “We are nearing the point for Sweden to open up again.”

The government explained that the decision to open up was based on a number of factors, partly that Omicron appears to be a milder variant of the virus, and partly that the percentage of Sweden’s population who are fully vaccinated or have taken a booster dose continues to increase.

“There are multiple international studies of a milder illness, and the data we have from Sweden paints the same picture,” Andersson explained. “The rate of vaccination in Sweden has been high in recent weeks,” she continued, stating that this means that “we can open up society, at least for all who have been vaccinated”.

Almost 50 percent of over-18s in Sweden have received their third dose of the vaccine, and more than 86 percent of over-12s have received their first dose. Sweden does not recommend the Covid vaccines to children under the age of 12, unless they are particularly at risk.

Health Minister Lena Hallengren also stated that “the government is planning on removing travel restrictions introduced on December 21st for the Nordic countries”, stating that they would provide more information as soon as it was possible.

She didn’t say anything about travel restrictions for other countries. Sweden’s current entry rules for EU/EEA arrivals are currently in place until February 28th, and March 31st for people travelling from other countries.

In terms of returning to work and higher education, Hallengren stated that “in order to prevent a new wave, the return to work and school should occur successively”.

Which restrictions will be removed?

The following restrictions will be removed next week:

  • Indoor events of 20-50 people must be seated, with max 8 per group and one metre between groups
  • Vaccination pass needed for indoor events with more than 50 attendees
  • Trade shows and markets indoors must require a vaccine pass if they have more than 50 guests, and number of guests is capped at 500, with 10 square metres per person
  • Restaurants must close at 11pm, with alcohol serving ending at 10.30pm
  • Groups at restaurants may consist of a maximum of eight people, with a minimum of one metre between groups
  • Restaurants with concerts or other entertainment may only have seated guests
  • Maximum of 20 people at private parties in hired venues
  • Shops must have a maximum number of guests permitted, calculated on area with 10 square metres per person – this also applies to gyms, museums, art galleries, theme parks and swimming pools
  • Long-distance public transport: all travellers must have a seat, if possible

In addition to this, special recommendations for those who have not yet been vaccinated will remain, as well as recommendations to stay home when sick, or if you suspect you may have Covid-19.

Covid-19 ‘no longer a danger to society’

The Public Health Agency also believes that Covid-19 should no longer be classified as an illness presenting a danger to society. Therefore, the agency has sent a request to the government in order to reclassify the illness.

“The government will process this request in a swift manner and will also put forward a law proposal to reclassify Covid-19,” Hallengren said, indicating that this could happen by the end of March.

After the government has submitted these proposals, parliament will make the final decision on whether to approve them or not.

Sweden confirmed its highest number of daily new cases of Covid-19 last week, the highest level yet during the pandemic. There was also a clear rise in the number of Covid-linked deaths and intensive care admissions last month, albeit not as much as during previous waves.

With over 16,000 fatalities so far, Sweden’s death toll is in line with the European average, but is far higher than those of neighbouring Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Denmark on Tuesday became the first European Union country to lift most of its domestic Covid-19 restrictions, followed later in the day by Norway.

Member comments

  1. It is really good that Europe feels confident enough to remove Covid rules, we have been living with these burdens for so long this feels like a breath of fresh air.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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