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Coronavirus: Sweden brings in rule of eight for diners amid spike in infections

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Sweden has limited to eight per table the number of people sitting together in cafes and restaurants, amid a sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

“We have a very serious situation,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven warned, saying the virus was “going in the wrong direction”.

Sweden has reported 31 Covid deaths since Friday, taking the death toll to 5,969 – far higher than its neighbours.

Unlike them, Sweden has never imposed a nationwide lockdown.

Mr Löfven also announced stricter recommendations – including working from home if possible and avoiding public transport – for another three regions: Halland, Örebro and Jönköping, 

This means that about 70% of the country’s 10.5 million people now live under the new government guidelines, which are voluntary.

The head of the Swedish Public Health Agency, Johan Carlson, said he hoped the public could work together to stop the spread of the virus, by complying with national and regional voluntary guidelines, as they did during the spring and summer. 

However, he warned Swedes that “we have a long, tough winter in front of us”. 

More than 134,000 people have been infected in the Scandinavian country since the start of the pandemic. 

Last month, the health authorities urged Swedes over 70 and other at-risk group to follow the same coronavirus guidelines as the rest of the population.

The authorities previously advised those groups to avoid all close contact with people they did not live with. 

But Sweden’s public health chief said self-isolation had taken a toll on the elderly. 

In other developments across Europe:

  • Germany’s health minister warned the country was in a crucial phase of its fight against the outbreak, after it entered a month-long “lockdown light” on Monday
  • The number of people dying in the UK was more than 10% above normal levels – with almost all of the excess linked to Covid, official figures showed
  • Greece expanded a night curfew on movement, shutting for a month restaurants, theatres and museums in the most populous regions – including the capital Athens