The new Covid rules you need to follow in Sweden

A series of new Covid measures came into force in Sweden on December 12th. Here is The Local's guide on what you need to know.

The new Covid rules you need to follow in Sweden
Restaurants and bars must once again close early from January 12th. File photo of early closing restrictions in 2020. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

How long will these restrictions be in place?

The new measures are expected to be in place until the middle of February, but will be assessed every two weeks, according to the Public Health Agency. The goal is to remove restrictions in line with increased vaccination rates, once the situation within healthcare has stabilised.

New measures which came into place on January 12th:

  • Public indoor events with over 20 guests may only take place if all guests are seated, there are no groups of more than eight people, and groups are placed more than one metre apart. Exceptions exist for religious ceremonies, where standing guests will be permitted. For events with more than 50 guests, vaccine passes will be required in addition to all other recommendations.
  • Markets, exhibitions or fairs with over 50 guests must require vaccine passes. There will also be a space requirement for venues: 10 square metres per person.
  • Bars and restaurants must close by 11pm. Guests must be seated, with a maximum of eight people per group and one metre between groups.
  • Adults should limit the amount of “close contacts” indoors by avoiding social events such as large dinners and parties. Earlier recommendations to avoid crowding, keep a distance, work from home and travel outside of rush hour continue to be in effect.
  • Indoor cups and sport camps: A ban on indoor cups and sport camps will continue to be in place until January 31st. Training and competitions taking place as part of the normal season may be carried out subject to risk-reducing measures.
  • Adult teaching and education: Universities are not required to move to distance teaching full-time, but may use it as a tool to limit crowding. Exams should take place as usual, taking risk-reducing measures into account.

The following restrictions and recommendations are still in effect:

  • Keep a distance and avoid crowded areas.
  • Work from home if possible, unless you need to physically be at work.
  • Seated travellers only on long-distance public transport.
  • Face masks are recommended on public transport if it is not possible to keep a distance.
  • Shops, leisure activities and cultural activities may only allow one person per 10 square metres, and must reduce crowding. Activities aimed at children – such as sports training and competitions – are exempt.
  • Teaching in schools should take place in person. Measures should be taken to reduce the spread of infection, such as being outdoors as much as possible, avoiding large groups indoors and preventing classes from mixing.

Measures to be introduced in the future:

In addition to the above measures, the Public Health Agency has asked the government to introduce the following restrictions (legally these require a government decision, whereas the Public Health Agency is able to make its own decisions on the above measures). There is no date for when these may come into force:

  • Limit private events in rented venues to 20 guests.
  • Limit public indoor events to a maximum of 500 guests, with a vaccination certificate requirement.
  • Travel: Scrap a requirement for foreign visitors to show a negative Covid test to enter Sweden, but reintroduce the Covid pass for adults. The government confirmed to The Local that it had received this request but had not yet made a formal decision.

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.