Sweden government to get wider shutdown powers

Health Minister Lena Hallengren

The Swedish government will have the power to close shopping centers and public transport from 10 January and fine people who break the rules, under a new law proposed on Monday to help halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Up to now, Sweden has relied mainly on voluntary social distancing measures, setting it apart from most other countries in Europe where enforced lockdowns have been used to fight the COVID-19 virus.

“In very serious situations, the government will be able to decide on more extensive measures to prevent crowding,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.

The government had originally planned to introduce the law in March, but has moved up the timetable amid a second wave of infections that has put the health service under severe strain.

Sweden registered 6,609 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday last week - the most recent figures reported.

It has now seen 8,279 COVID deaths, a rate per capita several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours, but lower than several European countries that opted for lockdowns.

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