Sweden’s temporary Pandemic Law to expire on the last day of March

Sweden's Pandemic Law will expire on the last day of March, according to a bill submitted to the country's parliament on Thursday.

A sign tells visitors to a Stockholm supermarket that a maximum of ten shoppers are allowed at a time under the pandemic law.
A sign tells visitors to a Stockholm supermarket that a maximum of ten shoppers are allowed at a time under the pandemic law. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The law’s expiry will mean the government will lose the power to impose a range of restrictions, including limiting the opening hours and the number of people visiting gyms, shops and other businesses, and also restricting access to public spaces like parks and beaches.

The bill will also see Covid-19 cease to be classified as “a threat to public health”, putting into law a changed recommended by the Public Health Agency at the start of February. 

“Our judgement is that it is now possible to remove the law,” Lena Hallengren, Sweden’s health minister, told the TT newswire of the change. “Given the current situation, we do not expect to need to bring in the kids of restrictions which we have had had to experience over the last two years — but if we do end up in such a situation, we will pass a new law.”

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Sweden’s pandemic law

In Sweden, work is already afoot on a new infectious diseases law, although the final proposals are not expected to be submitted to parliament until next year.

In the bill sent to parliament, the government also requested that the temporary infectious diseases measures imposed on restaurants should expire.

The changed classification of the disease will mean that those who suspect their are infected are no longer required to visit a doctor, the demand for contact tracing will cease and there will no longer be any requirement to go into quarantine or isolation.

Those who work within health and elderly care who test positive for Covid-19  will still be obliged to report this. 

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End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”.