Sweden cuts gatherings from 500 to 50 to curb coronavirus spread

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Sweden, which has stayed open for business with a softer approach to curbing the COVID-19 spread than most of Europe, on Friday limited gatherings to 50 people, down from 500.

‘‘An extraordinary cabinet meeting decided today to limit gatherings to 50 people, acting upon a recommendation this morning from the Public Health Agency,’’ Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters.

The ban goes into effect on Sunday. Those who organize events violating the ban will face fines or a prison sentence of up to six months.

Lofven also urged Swedes not to travel to other parts of the country for the upcoming Easter holiday, as the country sees its number of COVID-19 cases rise.

‘‘If you don’t need to travel, stay home. This is serious now,’’ he said.

On Friday, Sweden reported 3,046 declared cases of the newcoronavirus and 92 deaths.

In stark contrast to most of Europe, the Scandinavian country has kept primary schools, cafes and restaurants open, and has encouraged children to continue with their sporting activities.

Earlier this week, the government announced that restaurants and bars would only be allowed to provide table service to avoid crowding but stopped short of closing them.

Instead, it has urged people to ‘‘take responsibility’’ and follow the government’s recommendations.

Those include working from home if you can, staying home if you feel sick, practise social distancing, and stay home if you belong to a risk group or are over the age of 70.

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