- Sweden never gave a mandate for people to wear masks during the pandemic, unlike many other places.
- It only recommended people to wear them at certain times on public transport.
- It now releases that recommendation.
Sweden broke with most of the rest of the world and never gave the mandate that people should wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Now it even loses its lost recommendation to use them.
Swedish Public Health Authority said its recommendation people wear face masks during rush hour on public transport ends on Thursday.
It had been recommended to mask between 7:00 and 9:00, and 16:00 and 18:00, but only when people could not easily distance themselves from others.
There were no circumstances under which the government said people had to wear masks in other public places.
The section “how to protect yourself” about the agency website does not mention facial coatings. Nor does its list recommendations to reduce the spread, contrary to what most countries’ health authorities say.
The agency says on its website that “advice on mouth protection in public transport during rush hour will be removed” from 1 July.
The announcement comes as part of a larger relief on the same day, including violations of restaurant opening hours restrictions and more people allowed at events.
People living in Sweden previously told Insider that they looked strange that they were wearing masks, and some said that they were attracted to abuse when they did so. They said they were afraid that so few people wore masks, especially compared to other European countries.
And others told Insider that they almost never wore one, but they felt safe because other measures such as distancing were widely used.
Jan Albert, an expert on infectious diseases at Karolinska Institutet, told Insider that he thought Sweden’s new change made sense.
He cited the declining number of new coronavirus cases in Sweden, despite the growth of the highly contagious Delta variant, and the fact that many of the most vulnerable people in Sweden have now been vaccinated.
Other countries have a different approach. The United Kingdom, which has a higher proportion of its population vaccinated than Sweden, has seen cases rise with the Delta variant. In response, it delayed reopening and that masking should continue even if the restrictions eased further.
Albert also noted that few people even acted on the mask recommendation.
“Removal of mask recommendations in certain situations is likely to have a minimal negative effect as the recommendation was poorly followed in the first place.”
Most of world governments have required people to wear face masks in certain situations, and some European countries have made people wear them outside.
Masks are recommended by global and national health bodies, including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, which say they make it harder for the virus to spread.
This made Sweden an outlier even before its recommendation ended on Thursday.
Sweden’s response was already unique
Sweden is already used to having an unusual pandemic response.
While other nations implemented lockdowns, Sweden had few rules, instead they focused on social distancing. Services such as indoor restaurants were never completely closed.
Its death toll was more than neighboring countries with similar populations.
But its death rate remained lower than that of many other European countries.
Experts said that this may be due to unique aspects of Sweden, such as its large volume of people living alone and high confidence in the government, indicating that people are likely to follow recommendations even without formal rules.
But the government and the Public Health Agency acknowledged that they made mistakes.