The Swedish government has proposed a bill that would allow it to close businesses and fine Covid-19 rule-breakers. Officials previously said the old model of containing the virus was a “failure.”
If approved by parliament, the law would take effect on January 10 and stand until the end of September 2021.
“In very serious situations, the government will be able to decide on more extensive measures to prevent crowding,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said at a news briefing.
“That includes the closure of shops, public transport, shopping centers, or other kinds of businesses that fall under the new law.”
The law would give the government powers to close down various businesses, including restaurants and gyms, and to impose curfews and other coronavirus-related restrictions on their work.
Business Minister Ibrahim Baylan said the measures could apply to places like shopping malls, “where the risk of the spread of the infection is high and where there is a lot of congestion.”
The legislation would also allow officials to limit public gatherings in city squares, parks and beaches.
Those who break the rules could be fined up to 4,000 krona ($484).
Hallengren said the government will choose “appropriate” measures depending on the spread of the infection and other related circumstances.
The proposed bill represents a shift in Sweden’s general policy toward Covid-19. Since the early days of the pandemic, the country has been largely relying on voluntary social distancing and basic hygiene, rather than the sweeping lockdowns and tougher restrictions imposed in other European states and fellow Nordic nations.
The ‘Swedish model’ sparked intense debate at home and abroad. The government has quietly acknowledged that more stringent measures are required against the virus.
“I think we have failed. We have a large number of deaths, and that is terrible,” Sweden’s reigning monarch, King Carl XVI Gustaf, said in a televised address earlier this month, as the death toll surpassed 7,000.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he agreed with the king’s remarks, and that the high death toll “can’t be considered as anything other than a failure.”
As of December 21, 7,802 people have died from Covid-19 in Sweden, according to government data.