Friday, July 30, 2021

Sweden scraps relaxed approach to pandemic on fears of third wave

The country has never imposed the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe, and until now prioritised social distancing over the use of face masks.

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Fearing a potential third wave of the pandemic, Sweden on Wednesday said it was tightening pandemic restrictions and warned of further curbs if people did not stick to the new rules.

As the number of new cases rises in the country, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said cafes, bars and restaurants would close by mid evening from March 1 and the number of people allowed in shops and gyms would be restricted, the Medical Express is reporting.

On Tuesday, Stockholm authorities recommended the use of face masks on public transport at all times, as well as indoors where social distancing cannot be maintained. Previously, masks had only been recommended on public transport during rush hour. Earlier, face masks became mandatory in parliament, except for speakers addressing the assembly.

Sweden has never imposed the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe, and until now prioritised social distancing over the use of face masks.

But it has recently begun tightening its rules, banning the sale of alcohol after 8pm, outlawing public and private gatherings of more than eight people and restricting the number of customers in shops, swimming pools and sports centres.

The education minister said the tighter restrictions would help keep schools open for as long as possible. “Schools should be the last thing we close and the first we open,” she told reporters.

The head of the Public Health Agency said on Wednesday that even stricter limits could be imposed.

The prime minister sounded an even more ominous note. “There is a considerable risk of a so-called third wave. It’s your and my, our collective, actions that determine whether this will happen.”

He warned that should the situation worsen, the government is prepared to shut down parts of society.

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