1. Preventing transmission
The section on PREVENTING TRANSMISSION includes information on key public health measures that aim to prevent the further spread of the disease. It details how countries are advising the general public and people who (might) have the disease to prevent further spread, as well as measures in place to test and identify cases, trace contacts, and monitor the scale of the outbreak.
1.1 Health communication
Official advice on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and social distancing was issued fairly early in the COVID-19 outbreak through multiple press briefings with both Government and Public Authorities. Advice and general information is published on a special crisis website (www.krisinformation.se) and on the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s website (www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se), which has a specific page for COVID-19 that includes advice on hand hygiene, etc. with information in 25 languages. Information about government decisions is published on the Government’s website (www.regeringen.se).
There have been many press briefings which during the spring occurred on a daily basis (until June 10th when it changed to twice per week). The focus is to communicate instructions on how people should behave and to explain how the Government and the authorities are working and about their strategies. From 10th of June there are only two press briefings per week.
There is also a national information number that citizens can call for general questions about the virus and to obtain information about the authorities' recommendations. Since March 16th, information has been distributed through Facebook and Instagram and since April 1st, there has been an information campaign with television and radio ads, print ads and ads on public digital displays. Flyers in different languages have been handed out to people who are new to Sweden and to people who live in lower socioeconomic areas where language is a common barrier.
• February 1st. The Swedish Government issues a statement that the virus is a danger to the public and harmful to the community, but states that the risk for infectivity in the country is very low.
• February 25th. The Public Health Agency of Sweden re-asses the risk of importing the infection from abroad and states that the risk for importing the virus is high. The risk for public infectivity is re-assessed from “very low” to “low”.
• March 2nd. Against the background of the developed spread of COVID-19 across the world, the Public Health Agency undertakes a new risk assessment. The risk of detecting new cases in Sweden is considered “very high”, and the risk of general spread in the country is “moderate”. Several labs in Sweden test people for COVID-19 who had been abroad with the aim of isolating those who were infected and tracing the disease.
• March 10th. There are “signs” that show that the virus is spreading in society and the risk level for public spread is re-assessed to “very high” (the highest). The Public Health Agency urges everyone with respiratory symptoms to stay home no matter where they have been.
• March 11th. The Government prohibits all public gatherings with over 500 people.
• March 12th. Until March 12th all suspected cases among people travelling from affected areas to Sweden were followed up with sampling and contact tracing.
• March 14th. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against unnecessary travel to all countries.
• March 16th. The Public Health Agency urges everyone over 70 years old to avoid social contacts as much as possible. The Agency also urges everyone that can work from home to do so.
• March 17th. Upper secondary schools, Folk High Schools and universities are urged to teach at a distance (digital/online learning), but elementary schools are kept open.
• March 19th. The Public Health Agency urges citizens to avoid travelling within Sweden. The Government has, at the request of the European Council and the Commission, decided to prohibit unnecessary trips to Sweden.
• March 25th. Only table service is allowed in restaurants and bars, such that all guests should be seated at tables (with an arm’s length distance between the tables). Drinking or ordering at the bar is not allowed.
• March 30th. Visitor to residential care homes for older people are banned to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
• March 27th. The previous ban on the number of people at public gatherings is being enforced. The limit is changed to a maximum gathering of 50 people instead of 500.
• April 1st. A potential medicines shortage is becoming a threat in pharmacies. The Government therefore decides that people can only buy three months’ worth of medicines, i.e. paracetamol.
• April 2nd. New temporary regulation regarding schools are introduced. For example, schools can partly be open, e.g. for practical examinations and to pupils with special needs.
• June 10th. Press briefings now occur twice per week.