Policy responses for Sweden - HSRM


Policy responses for Sweden

1.2 Physical distancing

Since February, there have been regular press briefings with the message to keep personal distance. On March 10th, the Public Health Agency of Sweden urges everyone with respiratory symptoms to stay home no matter where they have been. Then on March 11th, the Government prohibits all public gatherings with over 500 people, this is then changed to gatherings of a maximum of 50 people (on March 27th) and is being enforced.

From March 14th, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against unnecessary travel to all countries. Then on March 19th, the Public Health Agency advises against domestic travel. Moreover, at the request of the European Council and the Commission, the Government decides to prohibit unnecessary trips to Sweden.

From March 16th, the Public Health Agency urges everyone over 70 years old to avoid social contact as much as possible. The Agency also urges everyone that can work from home to do so. Then the following day, high schools, Folk High Schools and universities are urged to teach at a distance, but elementary schools are kept open.

As of March 25th, only table service is allowed in restaurants and bars (no drinking or ordering at the bar). Furthermore, visitors are banned in residential care homes for older people from March 30th.

Ease of restriction announced on 29th May - Public Health Agency’s recommendation on distance education is removed starting June 15th. From June 15th, the Public Health Agency’s recommendation on distance education is removed. This means that students in upper secondary school can return to the school premises during the summer and autumn. For adult education, vocational college and higher education, education may need to be given in part at distance to reduce the spread of infection. This is to follow the Public Health Agency’s general recommendations on keeping distance and avoiding greater public gatherings.

Ease of domestic travel restriction from 13th June. Before it was recommended that one should avoid unnecessary domestic travel and not travel for more than two hours.

On September 15th  it was announced that the visiting ban in nursing homes expires on 1st October. The measures that have already been taken in the elderly care sector together with new government regulations and recommendations are to prevent spread of the infection within these institutions.

Announced on October 22nd, there is relief in the ordinance on public gatherings and public events, such that from November 1st these can reach a maximum of 300 seated participants who are at least 1 meter apart. This was announced to support the culture and sports sector, which has carefully prepared for this step. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers the increased risk to be marginal in well-arranged forms.

Further on October 22nd, special recommendations for older people (aged 70+) and other risk groups are lifted and instead they should adhere to the general recommendations that apply to the entire population. This was due to the improved situation in health care, the lower spread of infection compared to the spring and, most importantly, to reduce any negative consequences from mental and physical problems that isolation poses for this group.

On November 4th, the Swedish Public Health Agency decided on new, stricter local general guidelines for more regions (7 out of 10 Swedes are included). This entails stricter regulations for restaurants, with restrictions on a maximum of eight people at the same table.

The Ministry of Social Affairs proposed a new law banning alcohol serving after 10pm in restaurants and bars (November 11th). The ban also means that all businesses that serve alcohol will be forced to close no later than 10.30pm. The regulation is proposed to enter into force on November 20th 2020 and apply until the end of February 2021. This is in response to continued congestion at service points, also it is difficult to maintain the temporary infection control measures in these environments.

On November 16th, the government sent out proposals for consultation on a ban on holding public gatherings and public events with more than eight participants. This is in response to the sharp increase in the spread of infection during the autumn, such that the situation has been classified as very serious.

On November 18th, the government established a new general rule to enable high schools to take further measures to reduce congestion. These measures include options to combine contact teaching with distance education to help compliance with general protection guidelines and recommendations within school premises.
On November 19th, the government granted the Swedish Public Health Agency authority to impose local curfews on nursing homes. This measure is in response to the worsened situation since the national curfew was lifted on October 1st. The regulation entered into force on November 21th and will be in place till the end of February 2021.

On December 3th, on the recommendation of the Swedish Public Health Agency, the government d implemented a time-limited transition to distance learning for high schools. This recommendation will be valid from December 7th 2020 to January 6th 2021. The Swedish Public Health Agency estimates that this measure will slow down the spread of the virus among students and the wider community.

On December 8th, the Swedish Public Health Agency issued a regulation replacing local general guidelines with national regulations and general guidelines from December 14th 2020. This change is imposed as a precaution and is a response to the expected increased movement and social contacts during the upcoming holidays. This regulation will be in place till June 2021.

On December 14th, a mass-text was sent to all 22 million phone subscribers in Sweden by the Public Health Agency and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency to remind the public of the stricter general guidelines.

On December 18th, several new restrictions were presented in response to the continued spread of the virus.
• The Swedish Public Health Agency decide on a new general guideline on wearing face masks on public transportation during hours of contestation, weekdays between 7–9am and 4–6pm. Individuals are primarily responsible for providing their own face masks. However, companies that operate public transport are recommended to provide for passengers who lack protection. The general guideline entered into force on January 7th.

• New regulation for restaurants, with restrictions on a maximum of four people at the same table, instead of eight, started on December 24th.

• New regulation for banning alcohol serving after 8pm will be in place during the period of 24th December through January 15th, thereafter the previous regulation applies again.

• Malls, stores, and gyms are instructed to urgently set a limit for the maximum number of people allowed to visit at once.

• The government calls on the municipalities and regions to close all non-necessary businesses, e.g. baths, county museums, and open preschools until January 24th.

• Everyone who can, shall work from home. The government tasks every state agency to enable and ensure that all non-crucial employees will work from home until July 1st 2021.

• Extension of previous measures: The time-limited distance learning for high schools is extended until January 21th.

On January 8th, a new regulation was decided under the pandemic law such that a number of businesses (stores, malls, sports facilities and public baths) are now affected by the legally binding rules. These businesses are obligated to calculate and document the maximum number of visitors allowed at the same time. Every visitor should have at least 10 square meters. The county administrative boards are responsible for monitoring and determining the penalty for non-compliance.

On January 21th, distance-learning for high schools is further extended through April 1th, but also adjusted. Schools located in areas where the spread of infection is lower can combine distance education with in-person teaching.

On February 4th, the government announces an extension of a number of restrictions and recommendations.
• Ban on alcohol severing after 8pm is extended through February 28th. Thereafter a ban on serving alcohol after 10pm is suggested.
• Under the pandemic law, more measures apply, such as restrictions on public transport for long-distance travel, measures enabling the government to shut down stores, gyms and restaurants, and more accurate and appropriate measures affecting public gatherings and events. Restrictions for public gatherings and events will be adjusted to circumstances and depend on factors such as location (indoor/outdoor activities) and the size of the premise or area.
• The government requests that municipalities keep all non-necessary businesses closed through February 21th. The regions and municipalities are free to determine which activities will be suspended based on local conditions and needs. Sports and leisure activities for children and young adults (born after 2002) are encouraged to be maintained.