STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden plans to ease pandemic rules to allow more spectators at cultural and sporting events, if they can be organised to prevent the risk of spreading the new coronavirus, the government said on Friday.
In March, Sweden limited public gatherings to 50 people to halt the spread of the virus, effectively preventing theatres, soccer clubs and concerts from being able to bring in revenues from the public.
But with the number of new infections and COVID-19 deaths falling in Sweden, the government said it planned to introduce exceptions to the 50-person maximum for events where crowds could be seated two meters apart from each other, from Oct. 1.
“We know that many have been hit hard by the restriction and that many see the rules as a blunt instrument,” Interior Minister Mikael Damberg told reporters.
“We have to make sure that the rules about public gatherings and events do not needlessly affect events that can be held in a way that limits the risk of infection.”
The government said it would ask the Public Health Agency to come up with a strategy for how events could be held safely and to suggest a ceiling for how many people could be gathered in one place.
The government said it was also planning to ease some rules for restaurants and cafes that hold artistic performances.
With the pandemic crippling the sporting and cultural sector, the government announced it would hand out an additional 2.5 billion Swedish crowns ($290 million) to help keep clubs and theatres going, bringing total subsidies to 3.5 billion.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson; Editing by William Mallard)