STOCKHOLM, May 12 (Reuters) – Sweden will delay plans to ease COVID -19 restrictions on certain public gatherings, such as football matches, until June 1, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Wednesday.
The government had said at the end of last month that it hoped to ease restrictions and allow more spectators for certain sporting and cultural events from May 17, but Lofven said the situation in the health care system remained strained.
“We see a certain light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet,” Lofven told reporters. “If we are careless now, we will pay later.”
Later on Wednesday, the Swedish Public Health Agency will present a plan to the government on how other restrictions can be eased when the situation with the pandemic allows.
If the number of infections decreases, the vaccination program goes ahead as planned and the situation in healthcare eases, many of the restrictions could be eased later in the summer, says the health authority’s head Johan Carlson.
By September, “many of those provisions should be gone,” he said.
Carlson said the agency had also told the government that restaurants should be open longer from June 1.
Sweden has mostly relied on voluntary guidelines, such as asking citizens to work from home, wearing masks in certain situations and keeping social interactions as low as possible.
Binding rules include restrictions on the restaurant’s opening hours, restrictions on the number of people in shops and malls and the effective closure of museums, public pools and amusement parks.
Sweden’s confirmed fall per capita has been among the highest in Europe in recent weeks, but Carlson said the situation showed signs of stabilization.
The country reported 6,330 new cases on Wednesday and 50 deaths.
Despite the lack of suspensions, Sweden had lower excess mortality than most European countries by 2020, but higher than its Nordic neighbors. L8N2LM2HJ
Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by Alex Richardson
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