As new cases soar, Sweden lifts caution against Covid-19

People queueing for Covid-19 vaccination at Stockholm City Terminal station in Sweden on Jan 13, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (NYTIMES) - The Swedish government will lift most Covid-19 restrictions next week, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden announced on Thursday (Feb 3).

The move adds Sweden to the growing list of European nations, including Denmark and Norway, that are scrapping pandemic protocols even though new cases continue to soar in Europe.

Starting from next Wednesday, there will be no limit on how many people can gather at restaurants, sports stadiums and other events, according to Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren.

People will no longer be required to work from home and travel restrictions on visitors from other Nordic countries will be relaxed.

"The pandemic is not over, but we are headed into a new phase," Ms Andersson said at a news conference on Thursday.

She pointed to research suggesting that while record numbers of people in Sweden are testing positive for the Omicron variant, they are straining hospitals less than earlier surges did.

The Swedish Public Health Authority reported that the average number of new coronavirus cases reported daily in Sweden peaked in late January and, while still high, is now declining.

As at Thursday, Sweden, a country of about 10.3 million people, has reported a total of more than 2.2 million confirmed cases, according to the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, and more than 16,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

More than 73 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated so far.

Ms Andersson said that the country will continue to recommend that people take special precautions in certain situations.

A number of Sweden's neighbours and fellow European Union members have announced easing of their pandemic rules in the past week.

Nightclubs in Denmark are reopening, and the government said it no longer considered Covid-19 a "socially critical disease".

Norway is dropping its testing requirements for arriving travellers who are fully vaccinated. And Finland said it would end all of its remaining restrictions.

Although Europe is still reporting large numbers of new cases, a top World Health Organisation official in the region said on Thursday that the Omicron surge was giving the region an opportunity to bring virus transmission under control and reach an "enduring peace" with the coronavirus.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.