Sweden puts local restrictions on Malmö as cases soar

Richard Orange
·2-min read
People walk past a bin with a sign reading "The danger is not over - Keep your distance" in a pedestrian street in central Uppsala, the first town in Sweden to enter local restrictions - CLAUDIO BRESCIANI /AFP
People walk past a bin with a sign reading "The danger is not over - Keep your distance" in a pedestrian street in central Uppsala, the first town in Sweden to enter local restrictions - CLAUDIO BRESCIANI /AFP

People in Sweden's third city, Malmö, have been instructed to avoid public transport, shopping centres, museums, libraries, swimming pools and gyms, following a surge in infections and hospitalisations.

The new 'local general recommendations', which also apply to the surrounding Skåne county, mark the second time the Public Health Agency of Sweden has issued targeted local recommendations, following a similar edict given to the city of Uppsala last week. 

"It’s a very worrying development. We are in a completely different situation from what we were in only a week ago, and it's a serious situation," Eva Melander, the doctor in charge of infectious diseases in Skåne, said at a press conference of the Public Health Agency.

"Now we need to slam on the emergency brakes to stop this development. It's serious now."  

People in Skåne are also advised to avoid close physical contact with anyone they do not live with and to work from home if possible, while those arranging of sports competitions for adults are advised to cancel or postpone them.

The regional government has also decided to keep the 50-person limit for theatre performances and sports audiences, which is being raised to 300 elsewhere in Sweden.  

Sweden's third city was largely spared from the virus in the spring, with a much lower death rate than in Stockholm, the centre of the country's pandemic.

Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default
Coronavirus Sweden Spotlight Chart - Cases default

But both the number of new coronavirus cases and the number being treated in hospital have more than doubled week-on-week in Skåne, with cases increasing from just over 600 to over 1,300, and some 54 in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care.

The Public Health Agency hopes that the new "local general recommendations", which are not considered voluntary but come with no attached sanctions, will be enough to hold down rising cases in regions across the country.  

Officials reported unusually empty pubs and restaurants in the city of Uppsala over the weekend, after recommendations were issued last week -- despite it being a payday weekend.

But there have also been complaints that too few people in the city were changing their behaviour.

Officials in Skåne warned that the number of people requiring coronavirus tests in the region had now exceeded its testing capacity, and its contact-tracing operation was struggling to cope.

Alf Jönsson, the director of the region of Skåne, said in a statement that scheduled operations would have to be delayed to make space for coronavirus patients.