Social distancing and markedly reduced travel in Sweden

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Swedes are largely following the government agencies’ advice and recommendations. This has been shown through surveys and data concerning movement patterns. Now travel within Sweden is permitted again – but if the guidelines are not followed, the Government is prepared to take measures.

  • Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren at a press meeting

    On June 4, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin and Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren announced that as of 13 June it is permitted for people with no symptoms to travel freely within Sweden.

    Photo: Ninni Andersson/The Government Offices of Sweden

  • Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan at a press meeting

    The Government is prepared to take measures and tighten the recommendations, says Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan.

    Photo: Ninni Andersson/The Government Offices of Sweden

More than eight in ten Swedes are keeping a greater distance from others than they normally would. Just as many are avoiding shaking hands and are washing their hands more often than usual. Over 60 per cent are taking part in social activities outside the home to a lesser extent and are avoiding public places where there are lots of people. This is clear from a survey on behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic conducted by analysis company Kantar Sifo on behalf of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency. In other words, Swedes are largely following the advice and recommendations issued by the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

Travel decreased by over 40 per cent

The travel advice of the Public Health Agency of Sweden has also been heeded. When the Agency advised against non-essential domestic travel at the end of March, travel in the Stockholm region decreased by over 40 per cent. Data on movement patterns from telecom company Telia’s mobile network shows that, in Sweden as a whole, travel decreased by more than 20 per cent. Since 13 May, when the advice was changed to permit travel corresponding to one to two hours by car from home, travel in the country has gradually increased again.

According to the Public Health Agency of Sweden, it is not travel per se that spreads the virus, it is personal hygiene and social contact. Now that fewer Swedes are receiving care in hospital and tracing and testing have got under way, as of 13 June it is permitted for people with no symptoms to travel freely within Sweden.

“Common sense, a large portion of responsibility and caution are required. The vast majority have demonstrated this so far, and it still applies,” says Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

New restrictions may be issued

A number of restrictions remain in place. These include the ban on visits to homes for older people, the ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and the rules concerning crowding in restaurants, bars and cafés. Businesses that do not follow the regulations may be closed after an inspection; so far, this has happened on some ten occasions in Stockholm and Gothenburg. The tourism and hospitality industry is also covered by the guidelines on crowding. The situation remains serious and if the curve indicating the number of seriously ill people turns upwards again, new restrictions may be issued.

“Although some restrictions are lifted, this does not mean that life can return to normal. Important restrictions will remain. It is important to hang on, otherwise the spread of infection might take off. We all need to continue to take great personal responsibility,” Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin says.

“If it turns out that this doesn’t work, we’re prepared to take measures and tighten the recommendations,” says Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan.

The Government’s work in response to COVID-19

The Government’s overarching goal is to safeguard people’s lives and health and to secure the health care capacity. The Government’s policy and decisions aim to:

  • Limit the spread of infection in the country
  • Ensure health care resources are available
  • Limit the impact on critical services
  • Alleviate the impact on people and companies
  • Ease concern, for example by providing information
  • Ensure that the right measures are taken at the right time

Changes in Swedes’ behaviour, 21 March–7 June

88% Maintained greater distance to others

86% Washed hands more often and more carefully

82% Avoided shaking hands

66% Taken part in social activities outside the home to a lesser extent

64% Avoided public places where there are lots of people

Source: Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency