Press conference with, from left to right: Swedish Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren and Director-General of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Johan Carlson.
From left: Swedish Minister for Home Affairs Mikael Damberg, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren and Director-General of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Johan Carlson. Photo: Magnus Sandberg/Aftonbladet

Sweden and corona – in brief

Here’s a brief summary of how Sweden has handled the Covid-19 pandemic.

During Covid-19 in Sweden, the Swedish government has presented many different measures in several areas to fight the coronavirus. Independent expert government agencies make recommendations, the government makes decisions. The decisions have all aimed to:

  • limit the spread of infection in the country
  • ensure healthcare resources are available
  • limit the impact on critical services
  • mitigate the effects on people and businesses
  • ease concern, for example by providing information.

Sweden’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been about taking the right measures at the right time, because different measures are effective at different points in time. The country’s response has been partly based on voluntary action. For example, rather than enforce a nationwide lockdown, the authorities have given recommendations: to stay home if you've got symptoms, to keep a distance to others, to avoid public transport if possible, etc.

Vaccinations and removal of restrictions

Swedish Covid-19 vaccinations started in December 2020. As of September of 2021 around 76 per cent of the population aged 16 or older had been vaccinated.

Based on the high vaccination levels, but also based on the burden on health services, mortality rates and an assessment of the risk of increased transmission, the Swedish government has decided to remove most of the restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19 on 29 September 2021.

According to the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten), a high level of vaccine coverage is the most important condition for more restrictions to be removed. The Public Health Agency is continuing to encourage the general public to get vaccinated.

On 29 September 2021 the following happened as the government implemented stage 4 of its plan for removing restrictions:

  • Restrictions on attendance numbers for public gatherings and events will be removed.
  • Restrictions on attendance numbers for private gatherings at rented premises, for example, will be removed.
  • Remaining restrictions on restaurants, including the size of parties and distance between parties, will be removed.
  • The Public Health Agency’s advice to work from home will be removed and a gradual return to the workplace begin. Anyone with symptoms should continue to stay at home and be tested, and employers should then facilitate working from home.

Certain specific regulations may still be needed for very large public gatherings after 29 September 2021.

Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 in Sweden

There are still some travel restrictions in place:

  • Foreign nationals – with the exception of those travelling from the Nordic countries – need have an EU Covid certificate, a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours old or a certificate of recovery when travelling to Sweden.
  • There is a ban on non-essential travel to Sweden directly from countries outside the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA).

More details about travel restrictions and exemptions at krisinformation.se.

A healthcare worker is putting on personal protective equipment inside a tent.

One of the heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma/imagebank.sweden.se

A man is doing push-ups with his feet on a sofa and his hands on the floor. A child is standing next to him.

Work–life balance has looked slightly different during a pandemic. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

A healthcare worker is putting on personal protective equipment inside a tent.

One of the heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma/imagebank.sweden.se

A man is doing push-ups with his feet on a sofa and his hands on the floor. A child is standing next to him.

Work–life balance has looked slightly different during a pandemic. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

A healthcare worker is putting on personal protective equipment inside a tent.

One of the heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma/imagebank.sweden.se

A man is doing push-ups with his feet on a sofa and his hands on the floor. A child is standing next to him.

Work–life balance has looked slightly different during a pandemic. Photo: Melker Dahlstrand/imagebank.sweden.se

Temporary pandemic law

On 10 January 2021 Sweden implemented a temporary pandemic law, giving the government more legal powers to limit the spread of Covid-19. The law makes it possible for the government to take measures such as introducing limits on visitor numbers or opening times.

The pandemic law will remain in effect until 31 January 2022.

The principle of responsibility

In Sweden, crisis management is built on the principle of responsibility. This means that the government agency responsible for a particular matter under normal circumstances is also responsible for that matter in a crisis situation.

In Sweden, independent expert government agencies give the government advice about which measures are needed to limit the spread of Covid-19 and combat the effects of the spread of infection in the community. It is then up to the government to make the decisions. These agencies can also make certain independent decisions concerning infection control.

Trust in government agencies

In Swedish society there is, in general, a relatively strong trust in government agencies. The general public and private actors tend to follow the advice of the agencies responsible.

Since March 2020, market research company Kantar/Sifo has done regular 'Covid-19 barometers' (link in Swedish) that monitor the general public's trust, attitudes and behaviour. During the course of the pandemic, some of the most central institutions in Sweden have seen trust and support from the public fluctuate depending on the current situation.

Schools during Covid-19 in Sweden

Swedish preschools and schools for 6- to 16-year-olds have stayed open during the pandemic, with a few exceptions. The Public Health Agency of Sweden made the assessment that closing all schools in Sweden would not be a meaningful measure, based on an analysis of the situation in Sweden and possible consequences for the entire society.