- The new policy is “something between regulations and recommendations”.
- The policy doesn't apply to private and corporate gatherings, nor to schools, shopping malls, and plenty of other locations.
- Sweden seems to be conceding that reaching herd immunity is unlikely to happen without a vaccine
Uppsala (SK) — Swedish authorities appear to be reconsidering their notoriously lax approach to COVID-19 containment, which has contributed to one of the world's highest coronavirus death rates. Starting October 19, regional health authorities may direct citizens to avoid high-risk areas, such as gyms, concerts, public transportation, and shopping centers.
“It's more of an isolation situation, but a local blockade”, Dr. Johan Nojd, who leads the infectious diseases department in the town of Uppsala, told The Telegraph. “'I think what we're seeing is a consequence of the very heterogeneous spread this disease has, which means that even though there have been a lot of cases in some major cities, there are still huge pockets of people who have not yet been affected.'” A legal official from Sweden's public health agency told The Telegraph the new policy is “something between regulations and recommendations”. Violating the guidelines would not result in fines.
In March, the Swedish government limited public gatherings to 50 people, but the policy left gaping loopholes. The policy doesn't apply to private and corporate gatherings, nor to schools, shopping malls, and plenty of other locations.
Sweden's death rate was among the highest in the world. Nojd told the outlet he is considering telling people in Uppsala not to visit the elderly and other vulnerable populations. The public health agency of Sweden and the city of Uppsala have not responded immediately to TIME's request for further comment. Sweden seems to be conceding that reaching herd immunity is unlikely to happen without a vaccine. Although officials have not called herd immunity the goal of their casual containment approach, emails obtained by journalists show high-level Swedish public-health officials discussing that strategy as early as March, apparently motivated by economic concerns. National studies, however, show that far fewer people have developed natural immunity.