KEY POINTS: What Covid rules have changed in Sweden?

Sweden lifted almost all Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday. Which restrictions have ended, and which ones will remain? (updated with new information about travel restrictions)

KEY POINTS: What Covid rules have changed in Sweden?
File photo of a sign reminding shoppers to keep a distance. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Which rules were lifted on February 9th?

The following restrictions are currently in place, but were removed on February 9th:

  • 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

The following recommendations were also removed:

  • Public transport should keep up the frequency of departures
  • People should wear a face mask on crowded public transport
  • Everyone who can should work from home
  • Employers should for example ensure that staff can keep a distance and are able to work from home
  • Indoor cups and sports camps should not be held
  • Universitities should carry out part-time remote teaching

Which rules remain after February 9th?

If you have symptoms that may be a sign of Covid-19, you should stay home and avoid close contact with others.

Unvaccinated adults should avoid crowded spaces, and large crowds indoors, even if they don’t have symptoms.

The healthcare and elderly care sectors should have risk-reducing measures in place if needed.

Who should get tested?

The general public will no longer be able to get a PCR test for free, but staff and patients in the healthcare and elderly care sectors should still get tested if they have symptoms.

Who should get vaccinated?

Everyone aged 12 or over should get vaccinated if they can, and everyone over the age of 18 should get their third booster dose too if they haven’t already. The booster can be given three months after the second dose. Sweden does not currently recommend the Covid vaccines to children under the age of 12, unless they are particularly at risk (if you think this applies to your child, it’s best to speak with your doctor).

As of February 4th, 86.5 and 83.7 percent of over-12s in Sweden have received their first and second dose, respectively. More than 50 percent of adults have received their third dose. The Covid vaccine is free for everyone who is eligible for it.

What about the non-EU travel ban?

Sweden removed all Covid-related border restrictions for travel from the rest of the EU/EEA to Sweden on February 9th. This means that from this date, people travelling to Sweden from those countries no longer have to show a Covid certificate.

The non-EU restrictions remain in place for now, and are currently scheduled to expire on March 31st.

When The Local contacted the Health Ministry last week, we received this response from a spokesperson: “The government is continuously reviewing the entry restrictions introduced due to the pandemic. It is important that the restrictions do not go beyond what is justified.

“As a first step, the government intends to remove the entry restrictions which were introduced on December 21st for the Nordic countries. The government will be back as soon as possible with further information on this issue.”

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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.