Stockholm restaurant

Swedish municipalities can close eateries that neglect health guidelines

Swedish municipalities can close eateries that neglect health guidelines

The new law will last from 1 July until the end of the year

From today, Swedish municipalities have the right to fine or shut down restaurants, nightclubs and bars that do not follow health guidelines in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. They can do this by virtue of the Act on Temporary Infection Protection Measures at Dining Places which the Riksdag (Parliament) passed recently. The new law went into effect on July 1 and will last until December 31, 2020.

Previously, restaurant inspectors and police officers checked for overcrowding and other violations in catering establishments but now, the decision to take action and shut a bar or restaurant legally lies with regional medical officers. The new powers will allow local councils to take faster action against establishments which fail to follow the recommendations of the Public Health Authority.

Treating the pandemic with kid gloves

Unlike most EU nations, Sweden has never imposed strict lockdowns, keeping cafes, bars and restaurants, junior schools and most businesses open while encouraging social distancing. On the other hand, public events of more than 50 people have been banned, as well as visits to elderly care homes – prime Covid-19 hotspots.

The 50 people restriction doesn’t apply to restaurants and owners tend to use this loophole. So, keeping a safe distance becomes the responsibility of patrons especially if they queue outside the restaurant premises, as this is public land and the restaurant management has no powers to intervene there.

The new provisional law also stipulates that food and drink should be taken while sitting. Mingling and bar hanging are not allowed.

Crisis legislation expired without being used

Meanwhile, an emergency law passed in April that allowed the Swedish government to make operational decisions in the fight against the coronavirus without first seeking parliamentary approval expired yesterday. The government wanted at the time to be able to quickly enforce life-saving measures to halt the infection, such as closing transport hubs, restaurants or shopping centres.

Subsequently, the original bill was amended following criticism by the opposition parties and the Council of Legislation that it is too vague. One of the amendments stated that although the government would be able to impose measures immediately, they would go to parliament for review and could be cancelled in court.

Anyway, the powers granted to the government in the emergency law were never actually used, so it will not be extended, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told news agency TT. She also argued that the government had taken other measures that made the crisis law redundant.



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