The Swedish Parliament

Sweden’s pandemic law awaits parliamentary approval

Sweden’s pandemic law awaits parliamentary approval

The legislation will give extraordinary powers to the government to manage the coronavirus crisis in a more hard-handed way

The Swedish parliament’s Christmas recess has been a short one, as legislators have been called back to deliberate on the government’s coronavirus crisis bill, local media report. Parliament is expected to vote on the fast-tracked legislation as early as 4 January. Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference on Monday that the emergency powers law, if approved, would be in force from 10 January until September.

Covid-19 spike demands tougher approach

The government has complained that its hands are tied by the Constitution and wants greater powers to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Sweden, which has been sticking to a controversial ‘soft’ approach of managing the pandemic through health recommendations instead of mandatory restrictions, has significantly outstripped its Scandinavian neighbours with more than 6500 daily cases, 8279 deaths registered since the pandemic onset and hospital intensive care units near capacity.  

The new law will allow the government to make tougher and quicker decisions, informing parliament just two weeks in advance, or delegate such decisions to local authorities when necessary. Such decisions will involve, among other things, limiting attendance at or closing down (as a last resort) shopping centres, restaurants, bars, and gyms; fining rule breakers who hold private parties or gather in crowded places, and limiting public transport. 

Limits on the number of people visiting a park or a public square may also be introduced, but a curfew is out of the question as it would go against the right to free movement enshrined in Sweden's constitution.

Nation-wide consensus sought

The proposed pandemic law was sent for review in December to 129 government agencies, municipalities and organisations, including the ombudsman. The opposition has called on the government to clarify how it will compensate businesses and persons affected by the emergency measures the law would put into force. Lena Hallengren said that a good part of this feedback has been taken into account.

For Christmas, the government toughened coronavirus guidelines by introducing a limit of four persons sitting at the same table in restaurants and masks in public transport.



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