Sweden stands by 'exact same strategy' despite tightening Covid-19 measures

Government preparing one-year pandemic law to limit public gatherings

Sweden will pursue the same strategy to deal with Covid-19 despite a recent slew of stricter measures, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Tuesday.

The country made headlines around the world for its decision to combat the spread of the virus with mostly non-coercive measures, never imposing the type of lockdown seen elsewhere in Europe.

Faced with a strong second wave and a death toll rising rapidly, Sweden imposed tougher measures in the autumn, notably a ban on public gatherings of more than eight people and a call for citizens to limit social interactions.

On Monday, the country imposed a travel ban barring entry from Denmark to avoid lockdown-weary Danes travelling to Sweden to shop.

"I can understand the urge to ask: Has the strategy been changed? No, in essence it is the exact same strategy ... make sure to keep the spread down as much as possible," Mr Lofven said.

"Of course you have to be able to make changes, depending on the situation."

Even if stay-at-home orders and a complete closure of restaurants and shops are not on the agenda, new measures introduced include a ban on the sale of alcohol after 8pm and, for the first time, a recommendation to wear masks on public transport.

Caps on the number of visitors to shops and gyms were also announced, together with a maximum of four people per table in restaurants.

The government is also preparing a one-year pandemic law that could limit the number of people in public places and regulate businesses and services by restricting opening hours or forcing them to close.

The government planned to have the legislation in place by March but it now looks likely to be passed by January.

Mr Lofven also promised a government investigation of elderly care, a sector in which nearly half the country's Covid-19 deaths occurred, and a committee to investigate whether the country's constitution needs to be amended to allow future governments more powers in a similar crisis.

Sweden has registered 22,319 new coronavirus cases since Friday, Health Agency statistics showed on Tuesday. It was its highest weekend figure since the start of the pandemic and compared with 20,931 cases recorded in the corresponding period a week ago.

The country registered 174 new deaths, taking the total to 8,167. 
Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than those of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that imposed lockdowns.