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Sweden proposes pandemic law for broader shutdown powers

The Swedish government said the new law would enable it to close down businesses, shopping centres or public transport.

SWEDEN’S GOVERNMENT HAS presented a temporary pandemic law giving it new powers to curb the spread of Covid-19, which it said it hoped to have in place by January.

The government, which has controversially relied on mostly non-coercive measures during the pandemic, said the new law would enable it to close down businesses, shopping malls or public transport.

It would also be able to impose limits on the number of people allowed in specific public places, rather than general restrictions on public gatherings.

“Those who violate restrictions that limit access to public places can be sentenced to a monetary fine,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a press conference.

The government said it wanted to have the law in place by January 10, but it will first need to be approved by parliament.

Sweden has made headlines around the world for its decision to combat the spread of the virus with mostly non-coercive measures and never imposing the type of lockdown seen elsewhere around Europe.

Health authorities have insisted that battling the pandemic is “a marathon, not a sprint”, and measures have to be sustainable for the long haul.

But unlike many other countries, Sweden also does not have legislation that allows the government to shut down society in peacetime.

However, faced with a strong second wave, the country has tightened preventative measures in recent months.

As cases multiplied, authorities urged people to limit social interactions to immediate family or a few friends.

A ban on public gatherings of more than eight people took effect last month, and last week the country for the first time recommended the use of face masks on public transport.

Despite moving forward on the new law and the tighter measures, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told broadcaster SVT just before Christmas that the strategy had not changed.

The country of some 10.3 million had reported a total of 396,048 cases of Covid-19 and 8,279 associated deaths, when the latest figures were released on 23 December.

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