Sweden gets tough on coronavirus with new law to close shops and limit gatherings as deaths soar after months of lockdown-free hands off approach
- Sweden faced controversy by never imposing type of lockdown seen in Europe
- Law allows government to close businesses, shopping malls or public transport
- They will be able to impose limits on number of people in specific public places
Sweden’s parliament on Friday passed a pandemic law giving the government new powers to curb the spread of Covid-19 in a country that has controversially relied on mostly non-coercive measures up to now.
Sweden has made headlines around the world by never imposing the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe but it has started tightening measures in the face of a stronger than expected second wave over recent months.
The new law, which comes into force on Sunday, will enable the government to close businesses, shopping malls or public transport.
It will also be able to impose limits on the number of people allowed in specific public places, rather than general restrictions on public gatherings.
The new law comes as the number of deaths (seven-day average of deaths, pictured) in the country continue to soar, with 76 deaths being recorded yesterday
Sweden has made headlines around the world by never imposing the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe but it has started tightening measures in the face of a stronger than expected second wave over recent months
The new law, which comes into force on Sunday, will enable the government to close businesses, shopping malls or public transport as well as set limits on the number of people at gatherings. Pictured: Shoppers in Stockholm, Sweden on December 23
The new law comes amid a dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in the country.
Asked why the law was only put forward 10 months after the start of the epidemic, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said ‘it was not something we saw the need for in the spring.’
Speaking to broadcaster SVT, Hallengren stressed that they had seen an effect from widespread changes in behaviour among Swedes.
‘Then we had a summer with a low level of infection and then the work started during the autumn,’ Hallengren said.
In most cases, breaches of the new restrictions will lead to a fine, which previously has not been possible.
Unlike many other countries, Sweden does not have legislation that allows the government to shut down society in peacetime.
Under the new law, the government will have the authority to close public transport. Pictured: Passengers wearing protective face masks exit a commuter train at Malmo central station in Malmo, Sweden, yesterday
Health authorities have also insisted that battling the pandemic is ‘a marathon, not a sprint’, and measures have to be sustainable for the long haul.
Faced with a strong second wave, the country has already tightened preventative measures since November last year.
As cases multiplied, authorities urged people to limit social interactions to immediate family or a few friends.
A ban on public gatherings of more than eight people took effect in November and a recommendation on the use of face masks on public transport came into effect on Thursday.
The special pandemic law, which is in force until September, was first planned to go into effect in March but this was moved forward to January.
The country of some 10.3 million has been bit hit much harder than its Nordic neighbours and on Thursday reported a cumulative total of 482,284 cases of Covid-19 and 9,262 associated deaths.
Sweden is seeing a rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, with 76 being recorded yesterday, a jump from the 36 recorded the day before.
The country’s seven-day average of new coronavirus cases now stands at 6,415 having more than doubled since November 11.