Stockholm, Dec 19 : The Swedish government has announced tough new anti-coronavirus rules, including face-mask recommendations, alcohol sale restrictions and a limit on the number of people allowed in restaurants, shops and gyms.
“I hope and believe that everyone in Sweden understands how serious the situation is,” Xinhua news agency quoted Prime Minister Stefan Lofven as saying at a news conference on Friday, as the country’s death toll approached 8,000.
The government and the Public Health Agency unveiled the new restrictions and rules at the news conference, including an official recommendation for the use of face masks on public transport at times when crowding cannot be avoided.
This is the first time Sweden has recommended the use of face masks.
Johan Carlsson, the Public Health Agency’s Director-General, said more information and guidelines will be announced soon, including on what types of face masks to use.
He said public transport operators should provide commuters with face masks free of charge and that the new recommendations will be introduced on January 7, 2021.
Other restrictions are being introduced with immediate effect in Sweden.
For instance, non-essential state and local authority operations will be shut down until January 24, including public museums, libraries, swimming pools and sports halls.
Employers have also been directed to ensure that staff members can work from home whenever possible, and high schools and universities have been told to extend remote teaching until January 24.
As of Christmas Eve, bars and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol at 8 p.m. and will only be allowed to seat parties of four or fewer.
Malls, shops and gyms have also been told to restrict the number of customers allowed to enter, and to cancel Christmas sales.
“If those measures do not have the desired effect, the government plans to shut those operations down,” Lofven warned.
The new restrictions come at a time when infection rates are increasing across Sweden and in all age groups.
According to the latest figures from the Public Health Agency, 7,993 people have died from Covid-19 so far in Sweden., while the total number of confirmed cases stood at 367,120.
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