3rd wave delays Sweden’s plans to ease some COVID rules

A health worker vaccinates an elderly person with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination clinic in a church in Sollentuna, north of Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden will postpone a planned easing of some COVID restrictions until at least May 3, but tougher measures to get to grips with a surge in new infections are not needed at the moment, the government said on Wednesday.

Sweden has taken a different path from most countries during pandemic, opting against lockdowns, though it has gradually ratcheted up still mostly voluntary restrictions on public gatherings and social activities.

The government had planned to ease some of the rules, including raising the limit on the number of visitors to amusement parks, concerts and football matches, after the Easter break.

But earlier this week, the Public Health Agency said that an increase in infections meant the plan should be put on hold.

“The situation is serious,” Lofven said at a news conference on Wednesday. “The spread of infection is at a high level.”

Sweden registered 8,441 new cases and 35 deaths on Wednesday. Cases have risen sharply in recent weeks to a peak not seen since December, though deaths have remained at a relatively low level.

“We are getting reports of a strained situation in healthcare. In many regions, the spread of infection is increasing dramatically,” Swedish Health Agency Director General Johan Carlson said.

Despite the pick up in infections, the government said it did not see the need for tighter measures.

“The Swedish public has really changed its behaviour and daily life is, to a very great extent, very restricted,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said at the news conference. “So in the current situation we haven’t seen a need for further measures, To keep going is tough enough.”

The country of 10 million inhabitants has seen more than 13,000 COVID-related deaths. It has a death rate per capita many times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours’ but lower than in several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

A compilation of European excess mortality data last week showed Sweden had a lower increase in deaths than most European countries in 2020.

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