Swedish budget: Billion-kronor bid to boost healthcare in wake of pandemic

The government has announced plans to inject another seven billion kronor into Swedish healthcare due to the pandemic, as part of its upcoming budget bill.

Swedish budget: Billion-kronor bid to boost healthcare in wake of pandemic
Sweden's Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson. Photo: Marko Säävälä/TT

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday morning, joined by her Social Democrat colleague Health Minister Lena Hallengren, and Deputy Finance Minister Åsa Lindhagen of the Green Party.

They said another seven billion kronor (approximately $804 million) would be earmarked for Covid-19 care and other types of healthcare that have been postponed due to the pandemic, as well as purchasing vaccine and carrying out vaccinations.

The money comes in addition to previous cash boosts. For example, two out of the seven billion will go directly to Covid-19 care and postponed healthcare, which means six billion kronor in total will be earmarked for this area in 2021.

Another 1.65 billion kronor will be funnelled into contact tracing by Sweden’s regions and the Public Health Agency, bringing the total budget for this area to 10.5 billion in 2021.

The proposal is part of a series of amendment budgets that have been rolled out in the past year to cope with the financial impact of the pandemic, as well as the government’s annual spring amendment budget, which is set to be presented in full on April 15th.

A number of temporary pandemic measures will in addition be extended, including a decision to scrap Sweden’s first unpaid day of sick leave, and the decision not to require a doctor’s note in the first two weeks of sick leave, to encourage people to stay at home if they fall ill.

These measures will be extended until Sweden’s vaccination target (to offer the Covid-19 vaccine to the entire adult population) has been reached, said the government.

Sweden last week formally abandoned its earlier plan to offer Covid-19 vaccinations to all adults in the first six months of 2021, setting a new target of August 15th and limiting that deadline to first doses only.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”