Coronavirus: Sweden does U-turn on face masks to combat COVID-19

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Sweden on Friday did a U-turn on face masks, recommending that they be worn on public transport at peak times, having previously resisted their use in the fight against Covid-19 except in healthcare.

Announcing several new measures, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference that the Public Health Agency was now “recommending face masks and that they should be used on public transport at certain times.”

Sweden failed to protect elderly people during the pandemic with the high level of community spread likely the biggest factor as the coronavirus ravaged ill-prepared nursing homes, according to a report by an official commission released earlier last week.

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Johan Carlson, director of the Public Health Agency, at the same time stressed that face masks should not be considered a substitute for maintaining physical distance, and the recommendation was limited to situations were that was impossible.

"We don't think it will have a deciding effect, but in this specific situation it can have a positive effect," Carlson said, adding that wearing them in the street did not seem to be significant.

In addition to the face mask recommendation, Lofven said as of December 24, the maximum number of people allowed to share a table at a restaurant would be limited to four and restaurants and bars would not be allowed to sell alcohol after 8 pm.

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