STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden will postpone a planned easing of certain COVID restrictions until at least May 3, but tougher measures to deal with an increase in new infections are not needed at the moment, the government said on Wednesday.
Sweden has taken a different path than most countries during the pandemic and opted for lockdowns, although it has gradually collapsed, 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 Swedish Public Health Agency said that an increase in infections meant that the plan should be put on hold. [L8N2LS1OO]
– The situation is serious, Lofven said at a press 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, although deaths have remained at a relatively low level.
“We receive reports of a strained situation in healthcare. In many regions, the spread of infection increases dramatically, ”says Johan Carlson, Director General of the Swedish Health Service.
Despite the increase in infections, the government said it did not see the need for tougher measures.
“The Swedish public has really changed their behavior and daily life is to a very large extent very limited,” said Minister of Health Lena Hallengren at the press conference. “So in the current situation, we have not seen a need for further action. To continue is tough enough.”
The country with 10 million inhabitants has seen more than 13,000 COVID-related deaths. It has a death rate per capita many times higher than in its Nordic neighbors but lower than in several European countries that chose lockdowns.
A compilation of European data on excess mortality last week showed that Sweden had a lower increase in deaths than most European countries by 2020. [L1N2LM1EN]
Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson; editing by Philippa Fletcher