Infection rates rising as Sweden scraps last Covid-19 restrictions

Covid-19 infection rates are on the rise again in Europe, thanks to the new omikron BA.2 variant. In the meantime, another variant called deltakron is also starting to spread.

Public Health Agency Director General Karin Tegmark Wisell speaking at a press conference.
Public Health Agency Director General Karin Tegmark Wisell speaking at a press conference. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

According to Niklas Arnberg, Professor in virology at Umeå University, more than 90 percent of positive tests now show traces of the new variant. BA.2 is more contagious than BA.1, but only causes mild symptoms for most people.

An even newer variant, deltakron, was discovered in France in January this year, and has now been identified in five other countries, including Denmark and the United Kingdom.

“We don’t know much about the severity of deltakron yet, but I don’t think there’s any reason to worry,” Arnberg told the TT newswire. “Deltakron is just a variant of two variants we already know.”  

He said deltakron might already be present in Sweden, even through the weekly report from the Public Health Agency hasn’t yet confirmed any cases. There are no indications so far that the vaccine would not work properly against deltakron, he said.

The wide spread of the new variant comes as Sweden’s pandemic law, and other additional laws regarding the virus are set to be removed on April 1st.

Karin Tegmark Wisell, general director at the Public Health Agency in Sweden, told SVT that the pandemic was still ongoing and that everyone should make sure to live with it in a balanced way. 

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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.”