The planned relaxation of some of Sweden’s Covid-19 measures has been delayed until at least May 3, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has said after the country recorded its highest number of new coronavirus cases this year.
“The situation is serious,” Lofven said during a news conference on Wednesday as he appeared with Health Minister Lena Hallengren and the chief of Sweden’s health authority Johan Carlson.
The restrictions, which had been set to ease from April 11, forced the closure of hospitality establishments at 8:30pm, allowed only solo shopping and capped total visitor numbers at retailers and gyms.
Confirmation of the delayed easing comes as 8,441 new Covid-19 infections were reported in the last 24 hours – the country’s highest daily total of 2021 and one of Sweden’s worst days of the entire pandemic, according to health ministry data.
“We are receiving reports from most regions that healthcare is in a very vulnerable situation now,” Carlson told the briefing, while urging Swedes to “avoid dinners and other private gatherings.”
Hallengren also said that there would be no easing of health measures at Easter, as this could “worsen the situation further.”
On Tuesday, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell also warned that the 14-day virus incidence rate is nearly 700 cases per 100,000 people, while death and intensive care admission rates are also rising.
Sweden was initially lauded for the apparent effectiveness of its more laissez-faire approach to Covid-19 during the early days of the pandemic.
However, health data shows that infections and intensive care admissions peaked there in winter, before creeping up again from January through to March this year.
In total, more than 804,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Sweden, while nearly 13,500 have died.
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