Known for its more relaxed response to COVID-19, Sweden has now updated its public safety guidance to recommend the use of masks on public transportation.
From January 7, the Swedish Public Health Agency recommends the use of disposable masks or face coverings when traveling on public transport on weekdays between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., when congestion sometimes occurs. The recommendation applies to everyone born in 2004 and earlier. Individuals cannot wear face coverings due to medical reasons are excluded from the recommendation.
The guidance states: “You should bring a mask with you if you plan to travel during the times when they are recommended. You are also responsible for disposing of the mask in the correct place after use. The Swedish Public Health Agency recommends that companies operating public transportation provide masks to travelers who have not had the opportunity to acquire their own.”
The Swedish Public Health Agency provides comprehensive instructions for how to wear, care for and dispose of masks, and recommends using those that are CE-marked and meet the requirements of the standard SS-EN14683: 2019.
Immediately prior to this advice, however, the Agency’s guidance states that neither information from regional infection control units nor experiences from other countries indicate that public transport is an environment where the infection is spread to a greater extent. It concedes though that there are “difficulties with infection tracing in public transport because infections in that environment can occur without being detected and there is also a risk that occasional infections create new chains of infection”.
Along with many other nations, Sweden has seen a recent sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases and deaths. It has now lost over 9400 citizens to the virus, recording a higher per capita death rate than its Scandinavian neighbors who took much swifter and stricter action. Finland for example has been used as a good example country for lessons learned in the pandemic.