Sweden reverses face mask policy guidelines for public transportation


Sweden is reversing an earlier policy on the wearing of face masks in public transportation during rush hours.

The new guidelines also reduce the number of people permitted per table from eight to four in restaurants while banning alcohol sales past 10 pm. 

The Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven released new measures that will soon kick into effect. 

Italy and Austria are the latest EU countries to go into lockdown during Christmas. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that bars and non-essential establishments will remain shut nationally from the 24th-27th December, and the 31st-January 3rd. 

Also read: Swedish doctors and scientists criticize Swedish herd immunity strategy

Austria’s government announced a full shutdown during the festive season, only 11 days after the second lockdown ended. All non-essential shops that reopened last week will have to close down again.  Austria will however exempt ski lifts from the lockdown that kicks in on the 26th of December. 

Sweden took an entirely different approach from its European counterparts by not imposing a full lockdown. The numbers indicate that the country is the worst hit of the Scandinavian countries as it registered 360,000 cases and 8,000 deaths. 

Also read: Germany under lockdown until 10 January

Germany and the Netherlands have also mandated lockdowns until January. Mobility in Italy is mandated for those working during the Christmas and New Year period. French President Emmanuel Macron remains in self-isolation at the official presidential residence at the La Lanterne at Versailles after testing positive for Covid-19. Igor Matovic, Slovakia PM also tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday. 

Also read: French President Macron tests positive for Covid-19

Despite strong recommendations from the WHO, Sweden is one of the few countries not to recommend the wearing of masks outside healthcare settings. On Thursday, Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf termed the governments'  initial approach to the pandemic as a “failure” given the high number of people who have lost their lives as a result.  

Rather than mandating government measures, Sweden has instead called for citizens to harness their sense of responsibility and civic duty. No form of sanctioning regime exists in the event the government recommendations are ignored. 

The move was after nationwide recommendations on social distancing took effect during the Christmas period. The ban on sports matches, public events, and demonstrations remains in full effect.

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