Sweden, which has some of the lightest anti-coronavirus restrictions in Europe, is paving the way for new laws that could lead to a nationwide lockdown, as the number of deaths approaches 500.
Authorities announced that as of Monday, Sweden, which has a population of 10.2 million and has pursued a light-touch approach to lockdown so far, has a total of 7,206 confirmed coronavirus cases and 477 deaths. As a result, the government is preparing to increase its own power to potentially lock down the country later this month.
Social Minister Lena Hallengren of the Social Democrats stated that the current legislation under the Infection Protection Act does not give the government sufficient power to order lockdown measures similar to those already in place in countries like France or the UK, Aftonbladet reports. In comparison to the United Kingdom or Germany where public gatherings of more than two are banned, in Sweden groups of up to 50 are allowed to congregate presently.
The proposal in its current form would allow the government to act without the need for consulting parliament, a measure that the centre-right Christian Democrats (KD) oppose, with KD leader Ebba Busch Thor stating that parliamentary oversight was needed.
Sweden: State Epidemiologist Refuses Responsibility for Retirement Home Deaths https://t.co/VQRlYqt10j
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 5, 2020
“The KD wants the government to have the tools needed, but Parliament must always get the last word,” Ms Busch Thor said Monday.
Populist Sweden Democrat (SD) leader Jimmie Akesson expressed a similar opinion, saying: “We are thus prepared to reject the government’s proposal if it is not adjusted in accordance with our requirements.”
Sweden’s Council on Legislation, a government agency of current and former senior judges that acts as a watchdog on the legality of proposed legislation, was also sceptical of the new laws.
The Council wrote that the new legislation is unclear and too broad and does not set definitive limits on what measures the government can implement under the temporary law, which would expire on June 30th.
So far, the legislation does not have majority support in the Swedish parliament, despite several amendments to the original text.
While Sweden has allowed many businesses to remain open, including restaurants and shopping centres, the Swedish economy is still seeing significant effects from the coronavirus outbreak.
Sweden: Cafes, Restaurants, Etc. Remain Open, Gatherings of 50 Allowed https://t.co/v20D7cDJHq
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 29, 2020
On Monday, the Swedish Public Employment Service’s chief analyst Annika Sundén stated that since March 1st, 50,000 people were notified they would be losing their jobs, a level dwarfing that of the 2008 financial crisis and the economic crisis of the 1990s.
“Last week, we saw a significant influx of people who applied for unemployment at the Employment Service. Last week, 25,350 people registered as unemployed. This is a very high figure — higher than any individual week during the financial crisis,” Sundén said.