Sweden could see new Covid-19 mini-wave in mid-May, warns health agency

The Swedish Public Health Agency has predicted that the number of people being treated in hospital for Covid-19 could more than double by mid-May, as the new, more infectious, Omicron BA.2 variant takes hold.

Sweden could see new Covid-19 mini-wave in mid-May, warns health agency
Anna Hansson, temporary unit chief for the Covid-19 unit at Kristianstad hospital, shows off one of the new beds ordered during the second wave in January 2021. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

According to a new scenario published by the agency, the emergence of Omicron BA.2, which is roughly 30 percent more infectious than the previous Omicron BA.1 variant, will lead to a new wave of infections as it becomes dominant in Sweden. 

“The scenario shows a possible development where cases of Covid-19 once again begin to grow somewhat, reaching a peak in the middle of May,” said Lisa Brouwers, acting head of unit at the agency.  

In the scenario the roughly 25 people a day currently being treated in hospital for Covid-19 in Sweden will rise to around 60 a day by mid-May, after which the agency expects rates to decline again. 

At the peak in mid-May, the agency estimates that around 3,500 people will be infected with the new variant a day, although it does not expect this to lead to a significant health consequences. 

Because of the high immunity the population has gained through vaccination and that many people have recently contracted Covid-19, the burden on healthcare under our calculations will be relatively limited compared to previous peaks of infection, the agency said. 

“The Public Health Agency does not consider that any new infection control measures are needed at this point, but it’s important to keep up preparatory measures in the healthcare and elderly care sector, and to continue efforts to maintain high vaccination levels,” Brouwers said. 

The agency predicts that when summer weather leads to people spending more time outside, the new Omicron BA.2 wave will subside, reaching even lower levels after people leave work and school for their summer holidays.  

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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.”