Sweden: Better late than never?

By Madelene Ackheim

01-2021

Sweden’s response to COVID-19 has been criticised for being too relaxed. While countries all over the world has shut and locked down, Sweden has remained open. Why? One reason for this is that the Swedish government did not have the authority to force the type of lockdown seen in many other countries. Simply put, the government has not been able decide on such limitations. However, now that Sweden’s new pandemic legislation has been set in place, some changes that will affect us all will come into force. Shall we have a quick look at what it’s all about?

When did the new law come into force?

On 10 January 2021, and it ends on 30 September 2021 (unless extended).

Where will it apply?

Public places and business premises such as gyms, parks, shopping centers, retail premises, beaches, camping sites and more. It also applies to public transport. The law does not apply in private homes, although of course Swedes are encouraged to limit social contacts also within their own homes.

What type of restrictions does the new law entail?

The new law aims to stop crowding. It gives the government authority to restrict the number of people in public premises, adjust opening hours or introduce other measures to avoid crowding. At the time of writing, a “one person per 10 square meters”-rule has been adopted for shops, gyms and other public places. The law also gives the government the power to completely close business premises and public places, although the Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren states that this is not the main purpose of the new law.

Can businesses be fined for not following the new rules?

Yes! Businesses who are not compliant can be subject to an injunction and/or fined.

Can private individuals be fined for breaking the pandemic law?

Not quite yet! However, a proposal for a SEK 2,000 fine for an individual breaking the new rules has been made by the Swedish Prosecutor General and could come into force on the 27th of January 2021.

Will affected businesses be given further monetary support/compensation?

Currently, no. However, the government will investigate the financial consequences on affected businesses and future policies on compensation will be passed separately.

Will the freedom of movement of individuals be restricted?

Only indirectly, as the law currently entails limitations for crowding. However, the new legislation will not entail a curfew or travel bans such as those seen in other countries. Such restrictions would be in breach constitutional rights such as freedom of movement.