The change in Sweden’s strategy comes at a new stage in the pandemic: the world is developing vaccine programs at a time when many countries are struggling with dangerous spikes in coronavirus cases.
Swedish law comes into force on Sunday and allows the government to “impose special restrictions on both certain activities and places,” according to a statement on parliament’s website.
“If necessary, it will be possible to ban public gatherings of a certain size in places accessible to the public and to close premises where food and drink are served,”
“We will see if we can do more in public transport, but it can also be about sports halls, sports facilities, events and businesses that operate party premises,” Löfven said of law enforcement. “It could be shops.”
The Riksdag, the Swedish legislator, further called on the government to clarify elements of the legislation, including what compensation will be provided to the companies concerned.
Until recently, Sweden followed a largely voluntary approach to virus protection measures, such as social distancing. In addition, the widespread closure of schools and the disguise of mandates are avoided. But the eye-catching decision to keep communities and economies open is worth it: With more than 9,200 covid-19 deaths, Sweden has the highest per capita mortality rate of any Scandinavian country.
While public health experts in Sweden say voluntary measures could significantly reduce transmission, the country is now struggling to cope with an increase in overcrowded hospital cases.
“We have a lot of patients admitted to intensive care units, and there are no signs of that reduction,” said Anders Tegnel, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, according to Bloomberg. “Unfortunately, the same goes for deaths.”
As the pandemic continues, Sweden is gradually changing course. A new measure came into force on Thursday, requiring masks on public transport during peak hours. Some high school classes closed for two months in December, while other high school classes were encouraged to stay open, but were told to close if necessary.
At the same time, in recent weeks, several Swedish leaders have been caught disagreeing with their covid-19 guidelines.
Last month, Löfwen was criticized for violating social distancing guidelines when he went on a pre-Christmas shopping trip to central Stockholm. The public was further angered when the finance minister was filmed in a ski resort that authorities had labeled the virus point and urged people to avoid it. Following a Christmas holiday trip to the Canary Islands, the head of the Swedish Contingency Agency resigned this month for violating recommendations against unnecessary travel.
In his annual speech at the end of the year, Swedish King Carl XVI Gustav last month directly criticized the country’s trajectory in dealing with the pandemic.
“I think we failed,” he said. “We have a large number of dead and that’s terrible.”