Sweden gives government extra powers to handle coronavirus
People sit and enjoy the spring weather outside the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. AFP
Sweden's parliament on Thursday passed a new law granting the government temporary powers to quickly adopt measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus without prior parliamentary approval.
The new law grants the Social Democrat-led government the ability to temporarily close businesses, limit public gatherings or shut down ports and airports, as well as a number of other measures. "It is important that the government has access to more tools in the fight against the coronavirus if they should prove necessary," Social Democrat MP Kristina Nilsson told parliament during a Thursday debate.
After objections from opposition parties, the bill was amended so that if the government decides to enforce any measure quickly without going through parliament, lawmakers can vote to rescind the measure if they deem it unnecessary. The new powers come into force on April 18 and last until the end of June.
The government is still prohibited from adopting measures that curtail rights guaranteed by the country's constitution, meaning it would still need to go through parliament to issue the type of curfews that have been imposed elsewhere in Europe.
However, so far the government has not pursued such measures, opting for a softer approach and calling for citizens to take responsibility to follow social distancing guidelines. The government has banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes.
On Thursday, the government also decided on a month-long extension of a ban on non-necessary travel to the country from outside the EU, in line with a joint EU decision.