The new measures are effective immediately, and will apply until March 14th.
“It’s a very serious situation as we are once again starting to see an increase in the number of new cases of Covid-19. We are in a situation where the risk is very high that the spread of infection will increase further,” said regional infectious disease doctor Thomas Wahlberg, who made the decision in consultation with the Public Health Agency and the county administrative board, in a statement on Wednesday.
The new guidelines state that everyone aged over 16 should wear disposable face masks on public transport, especially during rush hour but also the rest of the day. People are urged to avoid non-essential journeys entirely.
People in Västra Götaland are also asked to wear face masks not only on public transport, but also “in situations where close contact, during long periods in indoor environments, is unavoidable. Please note that face masks do not replace the rule of avoiding close contact and keeping a distance”.
The region also asks people to wear face masks “in situations where close contact, during long periods in indoor environments, is unavoidable. Please note that face masks do not replace the rule of avoiding close contact and keeping a distance”.
These regional recommendations are stricter than Sweden’s national guidelines, which only advise public transport users to wear masks from 7-9am and 4-6pm on weekdays. On its website, the Public Health Agency says face masks, if used, should be “quality-assured, ie CE-marked, disposable face masks that meet the requirements of the standard SS-EN14683: 2019”, and be worn correctly (here’s its guide).
Like elsewhere in Sweden, Västra Götaland residents are urged to limit the number of people they socialise with, avoid crowded places and work from home if they can. Schools for over-16s in the region are recommended to hold a maximum of 20 percent of teaching hours in person, and the rest online.
A total of 108,489 positive coronavirus tests have been confirmed in Västra Götaland to date, an increase of 622 cases since February 16th. A total of 333 Covid-19 patients are currently in hospital, including 60 in intensive care.
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In Sweden as a whole, a total of 622,102 cases of the virus have been confirmed so far, and 5,068 people have received intensive care treatment, according to the Public Health Agency’s latest data on Wednesday.
Västra Götaland’s new recommendations come just hours after the Swedish government announced it was preparing measures that would enable it to shut down large parts of society, including retail venues, restaurants, gyms and sport centres. Health Minister Lena Hallengren announced the new proposal at an early-morning press conference, saying the government was “worried” about the risk of a third wave of outbreaks.