Daily coronavirus cases in Sweden soared to a record high, with the easily transmissible Omicron variant dominating, though numbers in intensive care remain well below previous pandemic peaks, the country’s health agency said on Wednesday.
Case numbers have surged since November and in December the government tightened restrictions on public gatherings and urged citizens to work from home to help contain the spread.
On Wednesday it authorised the agency to mandate expanded use of vaccine passes, currently compulsory at some large public events, to cover restaurants and shopping centres.
Infections reached 17,320 on Tuesday, said Britta Bjorkholm, head of the health agency’s department for disease control.
That was sharply up on the previous daily record of 11,507 registered on Dec. 30,
“We have a rapid increase in the number of cases, but so far not such a big impact on the healthcare system,” she told a news conference.
Intensive care cases – primarily unvaccinated patients – and deaths are well below previous peaks, she said.
Neighbouring Denmark, which has been among the worst hit by the spread of Omicron, also reported a record number of new cases over the last 24 hours.
The surge in infections in Sweden is in line with the agency’s worst-case scenario, published before Christmas, and Bjorkholm said new cases were expected to peak sometime in mid-January.
While Sweden has tightened curbs, they remain mild relative to many other European countries.
“We are looking, of course, at whether, the situation requires new measures on an even broader front … but we have not taken any decision on that at present,” Bjorkholm said in reference to the vaccine pass issue.
Photo – An LCD panel displays a message in Swedish informing people about common COVID-19 symptoms on the popular pedestrian Drottninggatan (‘Queen’s Street’) in Stockholm, Sweden. EPA-EFE/FREDRIK SANDBERG