The Swedish government has proposed a ban on alcohol sales in bars and restaurants after 10 p.m. in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. All businesses that serve alcohol will have to close no later than 10.30 p.m.
If the ban is approved in the coming days, it will come into force on November 20 and is set to last until February 2020. Opposition from the industry is expected to be severe. Restaurant manager Conny Alqvist told SVT the proposal “feels unfair.”
At a press conference announcing the proposal, Swedish prime minister Stefan Löfven said the spread of infection is now increasing rapidly and the number of sick and dead can rise significantly if the infection is not stopped.
Yesterday the number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 in Sweden stood at 131 people, up from just 12 two months ago. In the last 24 hours, 4,467 new cases were reported, far in excess of any single day during the first wave of the pandemic. To date, 6,082 people have died with Covid-19 in Sweden.
Löfven has just emerged from a period of self-quarantine following a positive Covid-19 test by a colleague, although the prime minister himself did not test positive.
His remarks in the press conference continued the more serious tone adopted by Sweden’s leadership in recent weeks: “Every decision we take in our everyday life makes a difference, it counts. Everyone’s behaviour, everyone’s negligence, matters.”
During the early stages of the pandemic in Europe, Sweden’s choice not to lockdown was held up as an example to follow by many influential voices around the world. Eight months on, those voices are much quieter as Sweden, like the rest of Europe, grapples with a rising infection rate.
Last month, Sweden’s regions were given the power to introduce local restrictions. Many have since done so in order to protect medical facilities that are reaching capacity in some regions.
Working from home whenever possible, reducing the number of social contacts during a week and only visiting shops and indoor public areas for necessary tasks are among the regional recommendations.
Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbors Denmark and Norway—both of which took a stricter approach to tackling the coronavirus—have already introduced restrictions on alcohol.
Denmark’s ban on serving alcohol after 10pm is planned to remain in force until January 2021, while Norway’s capital city Oslo has implemented a short-term ban on all alcohol sales from bars and restaurants.