STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s government said on Wednesday it planned to ban the sale of alcohol in bars, restaurants and night clubs after 10 p.m. as it fights to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections that has seen record numbers of new cases registered in recent days.
Sweden did not lock down households and businesses as much of Europe did during the pandemic’s first wave in the spring, preferring mostly voluntary measures to control the spread of the virus.
With case numbers rising again, many countries have reimposed strict controls, but Sweden has left its measures broadly unchanged.
But Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said some people had begun to ignore recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of infection and the government now needed to do more.
“All the indicators point in the wrong direction,” Lofven told a news conference on Wednesday.
“The infection is spreading quickly and just in the last week the number of people with the coronavirus who are being treated in intensive care more than doubled.”
Lofven said the planned ban on late-night alcohol sales would be in place from Nov. 20 until the end of February.
Sweden has seen record numbers of new infections in recent weeks, straining the health system. One in four intensive care beds is now taken by a patient with COVID-19, the government said.
Since the start of the epidemic Sweden has had confirmed 166,707 cases of COVID-19 and 6,082 people have died.
Deaths from the virus are many times higher per capita than in Sweden’s Nordic neighbours, though less than countries like Britain and Spain.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson, Editing by Anna Ringstrom, Johan Ahlander and Catherine Evans)