Sweden has changed its coronavirus rules for citizens - here’s why

Sweden is departing from its laid-back approach to tackling coronavirus, and has introduced a strict limit on public gatherings.

A maximum of eight people will be allowed to meet publicly for any purpose, starting from 24 November. Until now, gatherings in the country have been limited to between 50 and 300 people, depending on the exact nature of the event.

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What are the coronavirus rules in Sweden?

Elsewhere in the country, restaurants will be able to stay open, with a maximum of eight people per table, and the same rule will apply in schools.

The new limit will only apply to public gatherings, as the law in Sweden does not allow for the government to ban gatherings in people’s homes.

The change comes after the Swedish government announced last week that bars and restaurants will be prohibited from serving alcohol after 10pm until February, as of 20 November.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned the public that “this is the new norm for society,” adding, “don’t go to gyms, don’t go to libraries, don’t host dinners. Cancel.”

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Lofven restated his belief that the government “does not believe in a total lockdown,” but warned the public, “It’s going to get worse.”

How has Sweden handled coronavirus until now?

The most recent data shows Sweden reported its highest number of new cases yet on Friday 13 November, at 5,990. The country has had a total number of 177,355 cases since the pandemic began, with 6,164 deaths.

These figures show that Sweden compares unfavourably with its Nordic neighbours, though it has seen fewer cases and deaths per capita than some other European countries which enacted stricter measures, such as lockdowns.

Sweden has attracted much scrutiny for its coronavirus strategy, as it has relied much more on asking and encouraging the public to be mindful of distancing and hygiene best practices to minimise spread, rather than introducing legal restrictions.