STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s parliament on Friday approved a temporary law giving the government new powers to shut private businesses to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The law represents a significant step by Sweden’s leaders away from the uniquely light-touch strategy they have followed since last March and toward the sort of approach adopted by much of the rest of Europe.
The Swedish parliament is currently meeting in reduced form to limit the spread of coronavirus, meaning only 55 of the 349 members of parliament voted. The law passed by 45 to 10.
While most European governments have demanded that private businesses close when virus cases have surged, Sweden’s government has until now had much looser rules.
Swedes are told merely to maintain social distance, wash their hands and work from home where possible, with private businesses such as shops, restaurants and gyms allowed to remain open throughout the pandemic.
That now looks set to change.
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told public broadcaster SVT on Friday that, with the virus set to persist for some time and the outlook about its spread uncertain, he expects the new law to be needed soon.
“We are going to use it in the near future,” he said.
Sweden’s new coronavirus law allows it to order shops to close The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.