Government plan for phasing out restrictions
The spread of COVID-19 and the number of hospital patients being treated for it are now decreasing dramatically. The largest vaccination campaign in Sweden’s history is protecting more people every day from serious illness. At a press conference on Thursday, the Government presented its five-stage plan to adapt and phase out the restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government’s plan has five stages. In Stage 1, which starts on 1 June, the Government will ease a number of restrictions. In the final stage, Stage 5, the Government will essentially lift all restrictions and recommendations imposed in response to COVID-19. The Government is keen to ensure that it lifts the restrictions responsibly and remains prepared to handle any situation in which transmission increases again.
The Public Health Agency of Sweden uses three levels as its basis for continued adaptations of COVID-19 restrictions. The Government, in dialogue with the Public Health Agency, determines these levels based on an overall assessment of the following indicators: infection rates, the burden on health and medical care and stability of the situation, and vaccination rates.
To determine whether it is possible to proceed to the next stage and lift further restrictions, the Government will make an overall assessment based on the indicators identified by the Public Health Agency. These will be used to describe the progression of the pandemic and to inform the continued adaptation of COVID-19 restrictions.
Adapted restrictions from 1 June
Stage 1, as partly communicated earlier, includes new participant limits for activities such as public gatherings and public events. Permanent funfairs and markets are no longer subject to participant limits. Funfairs will be regulated as amusement parks and similar facilities, and markets will be regulated as shopping areas. Opening hours of eating and drinking establishments will be extended to 22.30. The Public Health Agency will no longer advise against small-scale camps and sports cups for children and young people. Outdoor matches and competitions for adults will also be permitted.
Stage 2, which is expected to begin around 1 July, will include raised participant limits for public gatherings and events and private gatherings. At that point, the Public Health Agency will completely withdraw its advice against sport and recreation activities to individuals. The opening hours of eating and drinking establishments will be extended further, and the regulation concerning the maximum number of people per group and distance between groups for outdoor establishments will be lifted. The advice to socialise only within a very limited circle will be withdrawn, but socialising outdoors will still be preferable. Advice to clubs and associations to cancel, postpone or hold meetings remotely will be relaxed. Such meetings can then take place, but close contact should still be avoided.
In Stage 3, expected to start on 15 July, limitations on long-distance public transportation and regulations limiting the number of people per square in indoor and outdoor environments will be lifted.
Stage 4 is expected to start in September, at which point all participant limits for public gatherings and events and private gatherings will be lifted. The restrictions in the restaurant sector with respect to group size will also be eased.
All remaining restrictions will be lifted with the start of Stage 5. These include regulations concerning crowding in shopping areas and cultural and recreational activities. The requirement on certain central government agencies to ensure that only employees whose physical presence is necessary are present in the workplace will be lifted. The Public Health Agency will withdraw general advice concerning avoiding crowding, working from home and maintaining especially good hand hygiene. It has not been determined when Stage 5 can start.
Proof of vaccination
In mid-June, the Government plans to communicate its position on whether it will introduce the possibility of using a vaccination certificate or similar proof of vaccination for certain public gatherings and events for a limited period. The position will clarify how this should be regulated and which public gatherings and events it would concern. Proof of vaccination could be used to enable large-scale events that would not otherwise be possible due to the pandemic to take place.
Although the situation in Sweden is improving, the Government considers that it is still necessary to be well-prepared to take measures if the situation should deteriorate. If this happens, the Government may have to modify its plan for adapting the restrictions.