Sweden to lift most Covid restrictions

The Swedish government announced that most of the Covid-19 restrictions and recommendations will be lifted from February 9 onwards.

“It’s time for Sweden to open up again. The pandemic is not over, but it is entering an entirely new phase,” said Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Thursday.

The announcement was made two days after Denmark became the first country in the European Union to scrap most Covid-19 restrictions, reports xinhua news Agency.

Andersson attributed the decision to the allegedly milder impact of the Omicron variant, the increasing vaccination coverage, and the hospitals’ capability to handle the disease.

The cap on the number of participants in certain events, and the requirement for vaccination certificates to attend such events, are among the restrictions that will be removed.

Restaurants will no longer have to ensure distancing between guests or close early.

Also, the advice to limit social contacts will be scrapped, and employers are asked to prepare for their employees to return to work.

However, the advice to stay home in case of symptoms remains for the time being.

Special recommendations will apply to the unvaccinated, including asking them to avoid large crowds.

The decision to remove most restrictions came only a month after Sweden was engulfed by a massive wave of infections caused by the Omicron variant.

As the number of daily confirmed cases reached new record levels, the cumulated number of confirmed infections in the country increased from just over 1.3 million to 2.2 million in January.

In the wake of the surge, many critical services experienced staff shortages due to an exceptionally high number of employees being off sick or in quarantine as someone else in their household was infected.

These staff shortages forced the Swedish Police to make contingency plans, and bus and train services had to cancel a large proportion of their departures.

Many schools also had to close after teachers fell ill.

Some experts said it is too early to lift restrictions. Fredrik Elgh, a virology professor at Umea University, told Swedish Television the decision was premature.

“The climbing curve of admissions of Covid-19 patients indicates that we should not do this,” he said, adding that it is hard to grasp the number of new infections when testing capacity has hit the ceiling.

As of Friday, Sweden’s overall Covid caseload and death toll stood at 2,259,656 and 16,063.

Till date, 86.5 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received at least the first dose of vaccine, while 83.6 per cent were double jabbed.

Less than half of those aged 18 and over had received the booster dose.

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