Sweden’s government is rushing through a new emergency coronavirus law after a rise in deaths over the weekend raised further questions over its less restrictive strategy.
Lena Hallengren, the country’s health minister, said that government’s limited existing powers would not allow it to take the tough actions necessary should infection numbers start to spiral upwards.
“We believe that the provisions currently available under the infectious diseases law are not sufficiently powerful,” she told the country’s TT newswire. The new law, she said, would give the authorities “possibilities which are at least close to those available to other countries.”
The announcement came after Stefan Löfven, Sweden’s prime minister, on Friday warned that the coming weeks would see a steady increase in the number of people dying as a result of the virus.
“We are going to count the dead in their thousands,” he told newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “We may as well prepare ourselves for that.”
Sweden’s public health agency on Monday announced 22 new people died on Sunday from the virus, taking the total to 499. At 49 per million people, this is significantly above the 33 deaths per million and 11 deaths per million seen in neighbouring Denmark and Norway, where unlike in Sweden, schools, kindergartens, bars and restaurants have been closed.
However, on Monday the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare said that as many as a fifth of the country’s intensive care places currently remained unfilled.
Even in Stockholm, the centre of the epidemic, the regional health chief Björn Eriksson on Monday said there were “plenty of spaces both for intensive care and outpatient care”.
The Swedish army has also erected field hospitals in outside major cities, with the biggest at the Stockholmsmassan conference centre, opening on Monday.
The new proposal, which the government gave Sweden’s agencies just 24 hours to respond to during a sped-up consultation phase, will, among other measures, give government authorities special powers to shut down events, institutions, or places where they believe there is a risk of infection, without requiring them to consult parliament.
It will also allow the government and its agencies to overrule the regional health authorities to that medicine and medical equipment can be moved to wherever it is most needed.
The law, like similar legislation in neighbouring Denmark and Norway, comes with a sunset clause, with the new powers expiring automatically on June 30.
The post Sweden drafts new legislation to allow ‘extraordinary steps’ to combat Covid-19 appeared first on The Telegraph.