COVID-19: Sweden advises new restrictions and masks on public transport

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The King says “I think we have failed”

By Daniel R. Lucey M.D., MPH, FIDSA

As new COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths rise in Sweden, today the government posted new restrictions including for the first time use of face masks on public transport.

This action follows the Dec.15 release of a 318-page interim report from the independent coronavirus commission, headed by the senior attorney Mats Melin, that emphasized multiple crucial problems beginning with “The strategy of protecting the elderly has failed”.  (Here is a succinct 12-page English synopsis.)

On Dec.17 Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf looked back on the year, and noting, “We have a large number of people who have died,” said: “I think we have failed.”

“Of course the fact that so many have died can’t be considered as anything other than a failure,” agreed Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. 

“The government is tightening restrictions before the Christmas weekend,” the Swedish government posted on its emergency information site, today.

“Most restrictions apply from December 24 to January 24.

  • A maximum of four people can sit together at the same table in restaurants. Valid from 24 December.
  • Alcohol sales may not take place after 8 pm. Valid from 24 December.
  • The maximum number of people who visit shopping centers, larger stores, gyms, etc. is limited. The exact number is governed by the size of the room.
  • The Public Health Agency of Sweden urges all physical stores to refrain from the traditional after-Christmas sale in order to reduce congestion.
  • The Public Health Agency of Sweden recommends face masks in public transports in connection with work commuting and at other times when it is difficult to avoid congestion. The new guidelines will apply from 7 January.
  • Everyone who is able to, should work from home. This applies to the state, regions, municipalities and the private sector. Valid immediately and until January 24.
  • All activities within the state, municipalities and regions that are not necessary should be closed immediately until 24 January. This applies, for example, to bathhouses, sports halls and museums.
  • High schools will teach at a distance until January 24. The upper secondary special school is exempt.”

United States observers of Sweden’s past response to COVID-19, whether interpreted as favoring the controversial concept of “herd immunity” or not wearing face masks on public transport, now have no basis for advocating similar behavior in this country.

Dr. Daniel Lucey

Daniel Lucey, M.D. MPH, FIDSA, FACP, is a Clinical Professor of Medicine (Teaching) at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, adjunct Professor at Georgetown Medical Center, senior scholar at Georgetown Law, Anthropology Research Associate at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America Global Health Committee. He served as a volunteer to outbreaks overseas including patient care in Sierra Leone and Liberia (MSF) during Ebola 2014, SARS 2003, MERS 2013, Plague 2017 as well as H5N1, Zika, and Yellow Fever. Since Jan. 6 he has contributed more than 50 posts to Science Speaks on COVID-19 and traveled to China Feb. 11. With career experiences, he proposed and helped design the 2018-2022 Smithsonian Exhibition on Epidemics.










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