Sweden to lift pandemic restrictions next week

2 minute read

People queue for a drop-in COVID-19 vaccination at Stockholm City Terminal station, Sweden January 13, 2022. TT News Agency/Anders Wiklund via REUTERS

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STOCKHOLM, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Sweden will lift pandemic restrictions next week despite record levels of infections as it banks on booster shots and high rates of past COVID-19 infections to keep hospitalisation rates manageable.

Current restrictions, which include bars and restaurants having to close early and a cap of 500 people inside larger indoor venues, were extended last month until Feb. 9. read more

"It's time to open Sweden up again," Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson told a news conference.

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"Looking ahead, infection rates will remain high for a while longer, but as far as we can judge, the worst consequences of the contagion are now behind us," she said.

Fuelled by the more contagious Omicron variant, Sweden has repeatedly set newly daily case records over the past month that has strained the healthcare system, although to a lesser extent than in previous waves.

Sweden stood out early in the pandemic by spurning lockdowns, mainly relying on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and good hygiene, though somewhat tighter restrictions were gradually adopted in successive waves.

It has seen deaths per capita run much higher than in its Nordic neighbours but lower than most European countries that opted for lockdowns.

Some recommendations, such as getting vaccinated and isolating at home when sick, will remain in place and they will be more restrictive for the unvaccinated, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told the news conference.

Amid increasing evidence that Omicron results in less severe disease than previous variants, she added the Health Agency will also propose that the virus no longer be designated a threat to society, though it would still be closely monitored.

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Reporting by Niklas Pollard, editing by Helena Soderpalm and Edwina Gibbs

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