The virus was confirmed to have reached Sweden on 31 January 2020, when a woman returning from Wuhan tested positive. On 26 February, following outbreaks in Italy and in Iran, multiple travel-related clusters appeared in Sweden. Community transmission was confirmed on 9 March in the Stockholm region. Since then, individuals in every län (county) have tested positive for COVID-19. The first death was reported on 11 March in Stockholm, a case of community transmission. Sweden has not imposed a lockdown, unlike many other countries, and kept large parts of its society open. The Swedish Constitution legally protects the freedom of movement for the people, thus preventing a lockdown in peace time.
Sweden began testing for the virus in January, and as of 4 August 2020, approximately 810,356 samples had been analysed. As of 4 August 2020, there have been 81,181 confirmed cases and 5,747 confirmed deathsrelated to COVID-19 in Sweden, with Stockholm County being the most affected. The Swedish government considered its overall objective in the Swedish response to the pandemic was to limit the spread of infection in the country to not exceed the capacity of the Swedish health system. They also aimed to ensure that the municipalities and regions responsible for the health care would have the necessary resources to handle the pandemic.
While many countries imposed nationwide lockdowns and curfews, such measures were prohibited by the Swedish constitution as it is considered to be a violation of people’s freedom of movement, and Swedish laws on communicable diseases (Smittskyddslagen) only allow for quarantining individuals and small areas such as buildings, not for entire geographical areas. Instead, it is based mostly around individual responsibility. Although the government was later granted more authority for imposing restrictions on transport following a temporary amendment in April.
On 16 March 2020, the agency recommended that people over 70 should limit close contact with other people, and avoid crowded areas such as stores, public transport and public spaces. At the end of March, 93% of those older than 70 said that they were following the recommendations from the health service to some extent, with the majority having decreased their contacts with friends and family. On 16 March 2020, they also recommended that employers should recommend their employees work from home. One month later, statistics showed that roughly half the Swedish workforce was working from home. The following day, the agency recommended that secondary schools and universities use distance learning.
The decision to recommend distance education for secondary and tertiary education, but not for elementary schools, was that studies at secondary schools and universities to a higher extent require commuting and travelling, and that students would not depend on parental care while not in schools, and school closings therefore did not risk interrupting society. In May, it was announced that the Health Agency were to lift the recommendations on 15 June, and thereby allowing secondary schools and universities to open up as normal after the summer holidays.
On 27 March the government announced that the ban on public gatherings would be lowered to include all gatherings of more than 50 people, to further decrease the spread of the infection, again at the request of the Public Health Agency. The ban would apply to arts and entertainment events including theatre, cinema and concerts.On 19 March, the governing body for association football in Sweden formally announced that the premiere of the 2020 season for the first and second division leagues, men’s Allsvenskan and Superettan as well as women’s Damallsvenskan and Elitettan, will be postponed to late May or early June.
The decision will not affect the leagues below the second level. Two days later it was announced that the 2020 edition of the association football award ceremony Fotbollsgalan was cancelled. Many of the professional teams in the highest division warned that the loss of income following the postponement of the season would have a severe impact on their economy. Swedish Minister for Sports Amanda Lind announced on 29 May that some recommendations were to be lifted starting from 14 June, when sports events would be allowed under the condition that they’re practised outdoors.