Swedish PM could tighten coronavirus restrictions

Sweden faces stricter quarantine as PM admits measures were ‘not good enough’ – while Austria is set to begin easing lockdown and Denmark gets ready to reopen schools

  • Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Lofven is considering tighter virus restrictions
  • Scandinavian country has not imposed strict lockdown, unlike others in Europe  
  • Lofven faced criticism over decision to not close bars, cafes and restaurants
  • It comes as Denmark and Austria are considering relaxing their lockdowns 
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Sweden is considering imposing tighter restrictions on citizens after being one of the few European countries to not enforce a full lockdown.

Stefan Lofven, Sweden’s prime minister, said today that after taking a ‘flexible’ approach to restricting movements within its borders, the country’s coronavirus measures were ‘not good enough’.

Lofven has faced criticism over Sweden’s decision to not close bars, cafes and restaurants and merely advise residents to follow social distancing guidelines. 

Sweden has also been slammed for not preparing for the pandemic by stockpiling emergency drugs and ventilators.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven speaking during a news conference on the coronavirus crisis, at the government headquarters in Stockholm

People sitting outside in the sun at a cafe bar in central Stockholm yesterday. Swedish authorities advised the public to practice social distancing because of the coronavirus but did not enforce a full lockdown 

Lofven, who has been PM since 2014 as part of a various coalitions, said previous governments and parties were responsible for the lack of equipment. 

He added: ‘All parties have a responsibility in that, because [civil defence] was something that was phased out gradually after the Cold War, so that’s three decades we’re talking about. Since then, many governments have contributed to this.’

Though some protections have been put in place, Sweden left citizens to be be responsible for social distancing and allowed many businesses to continue to operate.

Disruption to normal life has been relatively limited in Sweden. Those include closing elderly homes to visitors, a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and moving higher education instruction online. 

Police wearing protective masks walking at the city market in Lienz, Austria, yesterday. Authorities in Austria are considering relaxing some lockdown restrictions 

The authorities have also have encouraged people to work from home and to avoid unnecessary journeys. 

Primary and secondary schools remain open and restaurants and bars offer a limited service.

A spokesman for the prime minister said last week: ‘We want measures that work in the long run, since this pandemic likely will continue for months.’

Yesterday Sweden recorded its lowest increase in coronavirus death toll for almost a fortnight, with only 17 fatalities reported.

The number of new cases also fell again to 466, following a two-day peak of 700+ cases per day.

Elsewhere in Europe, Austria plans to let non-essential shops of up to 400 square metres as well as all DIY shops and garden centres reopen on Tuesday.

Shopping malls, hairdressers and larger stores should reopen from May 1, though the plan could change if infections accelerate.

Young people shouting to each other while taking part in a drive-in Easter service in the parking lot at Aalborg Airport today 

Restaurants and hotels could reopen step by step from mid-May, although details have yet to be announced.

Denmark, one of the first European countries to shut down, will reopen day care centres and schools for children in first to fifth grade on April 15.

All other curbs including a ban on gathering of more than 10 people and closure of cafes, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers apply at least until May 10.

A drive-in Easter service was held today in the parking lot at Aalborg Airport in Denmark as restrictions on mass gatherings continued.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said today that any further loosening of the country’s lockdown restrictions would depend on more progress in the fight against the coronavirus, a day before some companies plan to reopen their doors.

The country’s overnight death toll from the infection rose for the first time in three days on Sunday, to 619, health ministry data showed, bringing the cumulative toll to 16,972. Confirmed cases increased by around 2.6 per cent to 166,019.

Both Italy and Ireland extended their lockdowns until early May on Friday.

Some factory sites in Italy may be allowed to open before the end of April, if health conditions permit them to do so, authorities said. 

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