People walk at the Granbystaden shopping center, as the government announced new recommendations and restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Uppsala, Sweden, December 18, 2020. TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery via REUTERS
Sweden will push ahead with easing COVID-19 restrictions at the end of this month, removing most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums, the government said on Tuesday.
With most adults vaccinated, Sweden has gradually eased some restrictions during a summer lull in the pandemic. While it has seen infections mount in recent weeks amid the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant, deaths from the disease have remained low.
Sweden has been an outlier in aspects of its handling of the disease, shunning hard lockdowns throughout the pandemic and relying heavily on voluntary recommendations regarding issues such as social distancing and hygiene.
However, public gatherings such as concerts, sporting events and venues such as bars and restaurants have operated under tight crowd limits, curbs that are now set to be removed on Sept. 29, along with a recommendation to work from home.
"The important message is that we now take further steps in the return to normal everyday life," Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.
"Our view has all the time been that restrictions should be lifted as soon as possible."
Hallengren said the government was also looking into the possible use of vaccination certificates for some activities, though it hoped these would not be necessary to impose in a country with a long history of high vaccination rates.
About 70% of Swedes aged 16 and above are fully vaccinated.
Sweden has suffered many times more COVID-19 deaths per capita than its Nordic neighbours, which opted for tighter curbs during the initial waves of the pandemic, but less than many larger European countries that employed hard lockdowns.
Reporting by Niklas Pollard; Editing by Simon Johnson
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