ÅLIDHEM – The national government announced this afternoon that it is lowering the number of people who can legally gather in a public event from 50 to eight, effective a week from tomorrow, November 24. Public events are defined as any event for which a police permit is required and which is aimed at the general public; this includes theater performances, demonstrations, lectures, concerts, and sports events. Restaurants are also no longer exempt from bans on gathering, which means that the eight person rule also applies to places where food is served. Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén made the announcement at a press conference.
Löfvén justified the new restrictions and advice by saying that Swedish residents have recently been overly ignoring social distancing guidelines. “Now we can see that compliance is lower,” he said, “and therefore, a greater ban is required to bring the infection down again.”
“This is unparalleled in modern times, but is absolutely necessary,” he said, adding, “It will get worse before it gets better. What we do now will determine how it will be later.” He noted that the spread of infection has increased rapidly across Sweden in the past few weeks.
The ban will last for four weeks, but if the worsening coronavirus situation in Sweden does not improve, the rules will be extended over the winter holidays, Löfvén said.
Private gatherings — such as parties, corporate events, or funerals — are not covered under these rules. However, Löfvén gave his strongest advice yet that residents should also voluntarily limit their private contact as well. “Do not go to the gym or library, or have dinner parties or other home gatherings. Do not look for excuses to make such activities OK — keep physical distance,” he said.
Umeå and Västerbotten have seen a sudden and sharp increase in the number of infected and hospitalized coronavirus patients in the past week. More than 1000 people have now been found to have the virus in Umeå alone, more than double of any other city or town in the county. 16 coronavirus patients are now in the hospital in Västerbotten, with two in intensive care. This follows some four months of almost none in the hospital. The last time that the number hospitalized was as high as 16 was May 13.