The Swedish government has proposed a law that would give it the power to shut down stores in response to a worsening pandemic.
The bill, which would allow the minority coalition to reduce store opening hours and limit footfall, is expected to go into effect in March if it goes through the consultation process, the health minister said on Wednesday. and Social Affairs, Lena Hallengren. She stressed that the government will only shut down businesses as a last resort, if Parliament agrees.
“We are not rid of the pandemic, although vaccines obviously light up the outlook,” Hallengren said. “We believe there is a need for regulation in the next year.”
Sweden has so far avoided a full lockdown and has relied mainly on voluntary measures to tackle the pandemic. This is in part because the government did not have the legal framework to do more. A provisional law that allowed businesses to close expired on June 30, but never applied.
But after a strong increase in coronavirus cases and deaths, the Swedish government is stepping up its fight against the pandemic. This includes capping the number of people allowed to assemble in public at eight, as well as banning the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m.
But Sweden currently has no legal tools to impose limits on shops, gyms or the use of public transport. The new law, if passed, would not regulate functions in private homes.
Hallengren also said the government’s goal was not to impose future lockdowns.
“We have placed severe restrictions on people’s way of life, but it is not possible to shut down completely,” she said. “However, we need to be able to take more specific measures that also impact places that are not covered by current legislation.”
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