Covid news: Sweden scraps almost all restrictions and tests despite appeals from researchers; King Felipe of Spain tests positive – as it happened | World news
Sweden scrapped almost all of its few pandemic restrictions on Wednesday and stopped most tests for Covid-19, even though the pressure on healthcare systems remained high and some researchers asked for more patience in fighting the disease, reports Reuters.
The Swedish government, which has opted out of closures in favor of a voluntary approach throughout the pandemic, announced last week that it would lift the remaining restrictions – and in practice declare the pandemic over – as vaccines and the Omicron variant have curbed the number of serious deaths.
“As we know this pandemic, I would say it’s over,” the health minister said Lena Hallengren told Dagens Nyheter. “It’s not over, but as we know it when it comes to rapid change and restrictions, it is,” she said, adding that Covid would no longer be classified as a danger to society.
From Wednesday, bars and restaurants will be open again after 23:00, and without restrictions on the number of guests. The attendance limits for larger indoor premises were also lifted, as was the use of vaccine passes.
Swedish hospitals, however, still felt the strain, with about 2,200 people with Covid needing hospital care, about the same as during the third wave in the spring of 2021.
As free trials declined earlier this month and were virtually stopped from Wednesday, no one knows the exact number of cases.
“We should have a little more patience, wait at least a couple more weeks. And we are rich enough to continue testing,” Fredrik Elgh, professor of virology at Umeå University and one of the devoted critics of Sweden’s non-lockdown policy, told Reuters “The disease is still a huge strain on society,” he said.
The Swedish Health Authority said this week that large-scale tests were too expensive in relation to the benefits. Sweden spent approximately SEK 500 million (USD 55 million) per week on tests during the first five weeks of this year and approximately SEK 24 billion since the pandemic began.
On Wednesday, Sweden registered 114 new deaths where the deceased was infected with the virus. A total of 16,182 people have died either from the virus or while infected. The number of deaths per capita is much higher than among Nordic neighboring countries but lower than in most European countries.