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11 Mar 2020 | 09:37 PM UTC

Sweden: Government limits gatherings following first COVID-19 fatality March 11 /update 1

Authorities limit public gatherings after confirming first COVID-19 fatality on March 11; adhere to all government directives

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SWE

Event

The Swedish government announced on Wednesday, March 11, that all public gatherings and events must be limited to no more than 500 participants effective Thursday, March 12, due to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes demonstrations and events held for sports, culture, religion, and any other gathering in which freedom of assembly is exercised. The decision follows confirmation of the first COVID-19-associated fatality in the country on Wednesday. The individual was an elderly patient who had underlying health problems.

On Tuesday, March 10, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) updated its travel advisory warning against all non-essential travel to Italy. The MFA also advises against all non-essential travel to Tyrol (Austria), Daegu city and Gyeongbuk province (South Korea), and Iran.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) representatives subsequently announced the suspension of all flights to and from Rome from March 11 through April 3, in addition to previous flight cancelations to Milan, Bologna, Turin, and Venice until April 3. SAS flights to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong remain suspended until April 30. The national airline has also announced flight reductions on its short haul network within Europe due to associated reduced demand.

The Swedish Public Health Agency has confirmed 461 cases of COVID-19 nationwide as of March 11, with the highest number of cases recorded in Stockholm at 235. The Agency raised its risk level for a local contagion from "moderate" to "very high" on Tuesday, citing evidence of community spread of coronavirus. Further spread of the virus is expected in the coming days and weeks.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia. 

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue - throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If you have fever, cough, and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider.

In the case that symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness emerge either during or after travel, individuals are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider. Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.