Ericsson, unlike Sweden, makes masks compulsory

STOCKHOLM, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Telecoms gear maker Ericsson has told all staff to wear face masks from Wednesday, marking a contrast with the authorities in its home market Sweden where mask wearing is not compulsory.

Sweden has been an outlier in Europe during the pandemic, with the country’s public health agency casting doubt on the effectiveness of masks in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

The country’s public health agency said in August that it might consider new guidelines, but Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has said they have little proven effect and could lead to a false sense of security.

Technology blue chip Ericsson said on Tuesday that it was taking the “precautionary measures it deems necessary to ensure the health and safety of employees and to minimise the impact on the company’s operations.”

“Ericsson has introduced compulsory global face mask wearing for employees and everyone visiting Ericsson offices and locations,” an Ericsson spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

She said that the company “closely monitors the development and adheres to recommendations from relevant national authorities and international bodies.”

Ericsson, which has almost 100,000 employees in 180 countries, has recommended that employees work from home and the majority will be doing so at least until the end of the year.

The company - one of the first to pull out of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year because of the pandemic - said in an internal memo on Tuesday that the implementation of mask wearing from Sept. 30 “does not mean that we should increase our presence in the offices.”

Other major Swedish corporations, such as H&M, Volvo and SKF, have said they are following health agency recommendations though employees are free to use face masks if they wish.

At least five companies at the country’s biggest shopping centre - the Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm - require staff to wear face masks, while state-owned airport operator Swedavia requires them at all terminals and train operator MTRX offers masks to all customers.

Sweden’s coronavirus death toll is higher per capita than in its Nordic neighbours, but also well below countries like Spain and Italy that, unlike Sweden, opted for strict national lockdowns. (Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Helena Soderpalm; editing by Niklas Pollard and Jane Merriman)