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Health

Swedish PM warns pandemic respite over as deaths start rising

FILE PHOTO: Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Belgium October 15, 2020. Olivier Matthys/Pool via REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - COVID-19 cases are increasing fast in Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Tuesday as he announced stricter recommendations for another three regions amid signs the resurgence was beginning to lift deaths from the disease.

“We have a very serious situation,” Lofven told a news conference. “More and more intensive care beds are now being used to treat COVID patients. The respite we got this summer is over.”

The new regional guidelines mean 70% of Swedes now live under the stricter, if still voluntary, recommendations that include working from home if possible and avoiding public transport, shopping malls and gyms.

Lofven also said diners at restaurants would be limited to parties of eight people . While this represented a tightening, it still fell short of many other European countries where restaurants have been closed or restricted to limited hours and take-aways.

“We want and have based our decisions from the beginning on following a consciously long-term strategy to do what is sustainable in the long run and that we can gain the widest possible acceptance for,” Lofven said.

Health Agency statistics on Tuesday showed Sweden registered 10,177 new coronavirus cases since its previous update on Friday.

Cases in the Nordic country, which does not publish new COVID-19 data over the weekend and Mondays, have risen sharply in recent weeks, repeatedly hitting daily records last week.

“The development is going in the wrong direction in many ways,” Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a separate news conference. “We see tendencies that deaths are starting to creep up, if from very low levels.”

Sweden registered 31 new deaths since Friday, taking the total to 5,969 during the pandemic. Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries, such as Spain and Britain.

Reporting by Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander; editing by Niklas Pollard

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