STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The Swedish government will put forward a bill granting it wider powers to quickly take steps such as closing transport hubs or restaurants if needed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that has infected thousands across the country.
The bill, which was widely expected to be pass parliament in the coming days after several opposition parties voiced their support, primarily cuts the time needed for the minority government to close many public venues.
While parliament can still reverse measures in a subsequent vote, but does not need to be consulted for prior approval.
“Today, we have decided on a bill to give us the tools to be able to act quickly with more measures if needed,” Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin told a news conference after the government had held talks with opposition parties.
“This proposal applies only to actions associated with the coronavirus and for a limited time only.”
Sweden, where nearly 600 COVID-19 patients have died, has taken a more liberal and low-key approach toward fighting the virus than most other European countries, relying primarily on voluntary measures and common sense than outright bans. While schools, restaurants and most businesses have remained open, the government has banned public gatherings of over 50 people and shut universities, while authorities have also advised those who can to work from home.
The increased powers to impose restrictions without prior approval by parliament would be valid for up to three months.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that while most measures were not bans he still expected all Swedes to comply.
“The advise from the authorities are not just little hints,” he said. “It is expected that we follow them every day, every minute.”
(Reporting by Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard)