FAQ about COVID-19
Please note: These FAQ:s are not completely updated due to the rapid change in the pandemic situation and the continuous change of preventive measures recommended in Sweden.
The virus and the illness
What is a coronavirus?
This information is available from the WHO.
What is COVID-19
COVID-19 is the official name, decided by the WHO, for the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is an acronym for coronavirus disease 2019.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
In most people, COVID-19 manifests as a respiratory tract infection, and many different symptoms may be present. It is not possible to distinguish COVID-19 from other infections from only the symptoms – a laboratory test is required.
Among the reported symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing
- Runny nose
- Blocked nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle and joint pain
A person falling ill with COVID-19 may experience one or more of these symptoms. It is fairly common to lose one’s sense of smell and taste for some time during an infection in the upper respiratory tract. Diarrhea has also been reported as a symptom.
Most people get mild symptoms and can recover at home without professional medical care. The symptoms often appear gradually. Some people get a severe form of the illness, with breathing difficulties and pneumonia.
The list of symptoms may be adjusted over time, since we update our information as new knowledge becomes available, e.g. in scientific studies or from the WHO.
The time between getting infected and developing symptoms (the incubation period) seems to be between 2 and 14 days. Most people develop symptoms after 5 days.
It is very important that you stay at home if you feel ill. If you can no longer manage the illness on your own, please call 1177 for medical advice (available in English).
How dangerous is an infection with COVID-19, in comparison with a seasonal influenza?
It is difficult to compare a completely new illness, such as COVID-19, with the seasonal flu. Based on current knowledge, the two diseases show some similarities in terms of symptoms. Most people develop mild symptoms, but some get seriously ill and some people die.
However, COVID-19 will affect many more people in a population where it spreads. The rapid spread of disease is due to the lack of immunity against the completely new virus. Therefore, more people will fall ill from it, and more people will need to be cared for in a hospital.
Different versions of the seasonal flu appear every year, and the seasonal flu has been present for a long time. Therefore, some immunity has developed in the population. There is also a vaccine and other medications against seasonal flu.
More information is available from the ECDC.
How do I know if my symptoms are due to hay fever or COVID-19?
Since COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms, it can be difficult to distinguish between the disease and other types of illness, such as hay fever.
Stay home even if you have mild symptoms like a runny or blocked nose, a slight cough or a sore throat. Take your usual allergy medication. If the symptoms do not get worse, your medication relieves the symptoms, and your judgement is that the symptoms are likely to be caused by allergy, you do not need to remain at home.
If you experience new symptoms which you do not associate with your allergy, or if you get a fever, you should stay home until you are free from symptoms, and then an additional two days.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) causing COVID-19 is mainly transmitted between people via respiratory droplets or secretions from the respiratory tract. Transmission via droplets happens when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets reach mucous tissue in someone's eyes, nose, or mouth. The droplets fall to the ground within approximately one meter (3 ft) from the source.
The virus can be transmitted via contaminated surfaces, so-called indirect contact transmission, but the risk of getting infected via contaminated surfaces is considered to be very low. There are no indications that anyone has been infected with the new coronavirus from touching contaminated surfaces or items.
It is currently not clear how long the virus can survive on surfaces and items. The material itself and conditions in the surrounding such as humidity, temperature, and sunlight will determine how long the virus is viable. Further studies will clarify the importance of transmission via surfaces and items for the overall spread of COVID-19.
You can decrease the risk of transmission by keeping a distance from other people in public spaces, washing your hands often with soap and warm water, avoiding touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth), and by staying at home if you are ill.
How long is the incubation period of the coronavirus, i.e. the period between infection by the virus and appearance of the first symptoms?
The incubation period, i.e. the time between getting infected and developing symptoms, seems to be between 2 and 14 days.
Most people develop symptoms after around 5 days, but individual cases may deviate from this pattern.
How ill can I get from COVID-19?
Most people infected with COVID-19 get mild symptoms of respiratory tract illness and recover without medical treatment.
Some people develop a more severe form of disease, for example pneumonia. Knowledge about the virus and the disease increases continuously.
For how long will I be ill with COVID-19?
Most people with mild symptoms of infection (fever and a cough) get well after about two weeks but it can take significantly longer to recover after having been severely ill.
Patients with severe illness have breathing difficulties (shortness of breath and low oxygenation of the blood). Some of these patients need intensive care in a hospital, for example in a ventilator. The severe symptoms usually appear around one week after falling ill.
The currently available knowledge about how long COVID-19 lasts comes from the WHO "Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)".
How many people get well after COVID-19?
The majority of those infected get well again. A small proportion of the population, of which most belong to a risk group, develop a severe form of the disease. There is no data on remaining chronical conditions.
What is the mortality rate from COVID-19?
Estimates of the mortality rate from COVID-19 are still ambiguous. The WHO suggests a fatality rate of 1-2 percent of those infected. This figure is based on international studies.
Experience shows that the reported number of cases of new diseases usually is lower than the actual number of cases. There may be more cases than initially reported, which means that the mortality rate may be lower than currently estimated.
Who is at risk of developing severe illness?
There are reports of an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 among certain groups of people. Since the virus is new, we have limited knowledge about which groups might run a higher risk of developing severe illness. Available data from studies of COVID-19 indicate that old age is the most prominent risk factor. Therefore, people over the age of 70 is the main group at risk for severe illness.
Older people with pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, or diabetes are over-represented among the severe cases of COVID-19. People with several pre-existing conditions are at a particularly high risk.
There is a possibility that people with illnesses or medical treatment affecting the immune system run a higher risk of developing severe illness. If you have a condition that makes you vulnerable to severe forms of respiratory tract infections, even if you are younger than 70 years, you should seek advice from your doctor about how to handle your condition and how to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.
What are the recommendations for pregnant women?
There are few studies of pregnant women with COVID-19, and only a limited amount of information is available. At present, there are no indications that pregnancy is a risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19.
Risk factors such as severe obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes might increase the risk of severe illness. Therefore, pregnant women who have any of those risk factors should be careful and consult with their midwife or doctor and limit close contact with people outside of the household as much as possible.
It is important to avoid getting infected before delivery because a respiratory infection towards the end of the pregnancy can be difficult and might imply risks to the pregnant woman.
We recommend that pregnant women take extra precautions from week 36 and follow our recommendations thoroughly.
Mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 during pregnancy is unlikely. Children can be infected with COVID-19 but severe symptoms are very rare in newborn babies and in children. Therefore, healthy newborn babies do not need to be separated from their mother after delivery due to the risk of transmission.
According to available studies, breastmilk is not a source of transmission of COVID-19 and there is therefore no reason to prevent mothers from breastfeeding.
Information is also available from the centre for knowledge about infections during pregnancy (in Swedish).
Can you get COVID-19 several times?
It is unclear how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts after an infection. Based on previous experience, there is reason to believe that immunity will last long enough to prevent people from getting infected several times during the same season.
Does smoking cause a more severe form of COVID-19?
Available studies show that people who smoke, or have smoked, are over-represented among the severe cases of COVID-19. However, the studies are few in number and of uncertain quality, therefore more knowledge is needed about the association between tobacco smoking and the severity of COVID-19.
The fact that tobacco smoking increases the risk of severe symptoms during respiratory tract infections is already well-known from e.g. seasonal influenza.
Some health benefits of giving up smoking appear quickly, for example increased oxygenation of the blood, lower blood pressure, and improved pulmonary function. For advice and support to stop smoking, contact "Sluta-Röka-Linjen" (information etc. is available in English and other languages).
New information and data is added continuously, and the Public Health Agency monitors the situation and updates its advice accordingly.
I am worried about the new coronavirus, how can I handle my feelings?
We all react differently during difficult times. Feelings of stress, anxiety, or fear are natural responses to a crisis. If you feel very worried or have sleeping problems, there are some things you can try do which might help you cope with your feelings:
- Talk to friends or family about your feelings and don’t hesitate to ask them for support.
- Use reliable sources of information about COVID-19.
- Limit the time you spend reading news and social media.
- Keep your daily routines as much as possible, and do things you find enjoyable and relaxing.
- Try to get fresh air, and stay physically active.
The WHO also provide advice on how to cope with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak.
What is your advice regarding face masks?
Face masks are not needed in everyday life. The best way to protect oneself and others is to keep at a distance from other people and to maintain good hand hygiene.
How many people are ill from COVID-19 in Sweden?
The current number of confirmed cases, in Sweden and globally, is displayed here (in Swedish). The figures change constantly, as more people seek healthcare and are diagnosed with the disease.
Until 12 March 2020 all suspected cases among people travelling from affected areas to Sweden were followed up with sampling and contact tracing. From 13 March 2020 the following groups are prioritized for sampling:
- Hospitalised patients
- Health or elderly care personnel with suspected COVID-19
This means that the number of reported cases is lower from 13 March, and that the number of cases before and after the change of sampling routines is not comparable.
Since many infected with COVID-19 only develop mild symptoms, it is likely that the number of cases reported is lower than the actual number of cases. Specific investigations are carried out to monitor how the disease spreads across Sweden, for example by testing influenza samples for COVID-19. The aim with such data collection is to learn more about how COVID-19 is spreading in Sweden and how healthcare services are affected.
How many people have died from COVID-19 in Sweden?
The number of fatal cases of COVID-19 in Sweden is displayed here Antal fall av covid-19 (in Swedish). This website is updated daily.
There is some delay in the reporting of the number of deaths as well as additional data for those cases.
Testing, vaccination, and treatment
Who should be tested for COVID-19?
The healthcare services in Sweden prioritise the following groups:
- Hospitalised patients
- Health or elderly care personnel with suspected COVID-19
The aim to prioritise this way is to protect the most vulnerable and the most exposed groups in the society.
Anyone who is ill with symptoms of cold or flu should stay at home in order to minimise the risk of spreading the disease to others. This group will not be prioritised for testing.
The county medical officers may adapt strategies for testing to local conditions.
How do you monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community?
The Public Health Agency is doing a survey in Stockholm to assess the level of COVID-19 in the community. In early April, approximately 4000 people were asked if they wanted to participate by providing samples. Participation is voluntary.
This survey is one way of gathering information about the number of people in the community infected with COVID-19. Since people with mild symptoms are asked to stay at home, mainly patients with severe symptoms are being tested when admitted to hospital.
It is not possible to sign up for this survey. Participants are randomly selected from the Public Health Agency's regular survey panel. Results are expected in early May. A similar, smaller survey has been done previously in Stockholm.
More information is available here (in Swedish).
Are there tests showing if you have had COVID-19?
So-called serological tests are being developed. They detect antibodies in the blood and can be used in order to find out if a person has had an infection with the new coronavirus. There are no reliable tests of this kind available yet. When they become available, they will primarily be used for testing healthcare and social care staff.
Serological tests are not useful during the acute illness, since they only, after some time of infection, detect whether someone has, or has had COVID-19.
Are there test kits available for home use?
There are test kits for COVID-19 promoted for home use by the manufacturers. We currently do not recommend these tests, since they are much less reliable than the tests used in healthcare.
The methods used in the healthcare system are highly sensitive and specific. Tests are combined with clinical observations, epidemiological information, and patient history to support a diagnosis. A test with low sensitivity, or used during the wrong phase of the infection, might indicate that you do not have COVID-19 although you are actually infected.
Is there a vaccine or any other treatment against COVID-19?
There is currently no vaccine and no approved medicine against COVID-19. Any treatment given in severe cases of illness serves to support the patient’s lungs and other internal organs.
Research on pharmacological treatments and a vaccine against COVID-19 is conducted ongoing in Sweden and internationally. The Swedish Medical Products Agency collaborates with its European and global counterparts in these efforts.
Does the pneumococcal vaccine protect against COVID-19?
No, the pneumococcal vaccine only protects you from diseases caused by certain types of the pneumococcus bacterium.
Vaccination against pneumococci does not decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19. The pneumonia some patients infected with COVID-19 get, is caused by the coronavirus itself.
What can we do to prevent transmission?
Can COVID-19 be transmitted from a person who is infected but does not experience any symptoms?
The coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is mainly transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. This means that the virus reaches the inside of your eyes, nose or mouth from droplets that are dispersed in the air when someone sneezes or coughs. The droplets fall to the ground within approximately one meter (3 ft) from the source.
There are reports of transmission of COVID-19 from people without any symptoms of illness. However, only a few studies describe the role of this type of transmission in relation to the overall spread of COVID-19 in the community. Based on the available knowledge about COVID-19 and similar diseases, the current understanding is that this route of transmission represents a minor part.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community, it is important to limit the transmission of the virus from people with symptoms of illness. This is one of the objectives of the Public Health Agency's ongoing efforts.
How long can the virus causing COVID-19 survive outside the body?
It is not yet clear how long the virus can survive outside the body. Research on related coronaviruses shows that they can live for several days on surfaces and items, under particular conditions. Their survival depends on temperature, humidity, and sunlight. Coronaviruses are sensitive to dehydration.
The amount of virus particles present also determines how long a surface or an item is contagious. Such studies are done under controlled conditions in laboratories, and are not directly transferable to other environments, for example in the community.
A recent study from a healthcare setting where patients with COVID-19 had been isolated shows that small amounts of genetic material from the virus can remain in the environment. Further studies will clarify the role of indirect contact transmission for the spread of COVID-19.
It is important to maintain good hand hygiene. By washing your hands with soap and water you can decrease the risk of getting infected and infecting others. If water and soap are not available, alcohol-based hand rub can be used instead.
Can COVID-19 spread via coins and banknotes?
There is no data indicating that people have been infected from coins and banknotes. The coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is mainly transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. This means that the virus reaches the inside of your eyes, nose or mouth from droplets that are dispersed in the air when someone sneezes or coughs.
This is what you can do to avoid getting the virus, or spreading it to others:
- Keep at a distance from people in public places.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand rub is an alternative when handwashing facilities are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or paper tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose mouth)
- Stay at home if you are ill.
Can the virus spread to humans from objects like letters and parcels?
There is no data indicating that people have been infected from letters or parcels. The coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is mainly transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. This means that the virus reaches the inside of your eyes, nose or mouth from droplets that are dispersed in the air when someone sneezes or coughs.
This is what you can do to avoid getting the virus, or spreading it to others:
- Keep at a distance from people in public places.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol hand rub is an alternative when handwashing facilities are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or paper tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose mouth)
- Stay at home if you are ill.
Does COVID-19 spread via water and food?
There is no data indicating that people have been infected from food or water. The coronavirus causing COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is mainly transmitted person-to-person via respiratory droplets. This means that the virus reaches the inside of your eyes, nose or mouth from droplets that are dispersed in the air when someone sneezes or coughs. It is also unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted via water in swimming pools or other types of baths.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water; before cooking and eating and after using the toilet. Alcohol-based hand rub is an alternative when you do not have access to hand washing facilities.
More information is available from the Swedish Food Agency (in Swedish).
Can the virus causing COVID-19 spread between animals and humans and can my pet get the virus?
The virus causing the disease COVID-19 was most probably transmitted from animals to humans at a market with live animals in China. The possible animal source of COVID-19 has not yet been confirmed but research is ongoing.
There is no evidence that the virus can spread from humans to pets.
More information is available from the National Veterinary Institute, SVA (in Swedish).
Which countries are affected by COVID-19?
On 11 March 2002 the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This means that the disease is, or will be, prevalent in all continents. It is likely that it will affect all countries in the world. Therefore, it is no longer relevant to list the affected countries.
The classification of COVID-19 as a pandemic does not change how the measures taken by the Public Health Agency. Strategic interventions in order to prevent the spread of the disease in the community and protect vulnerable groups are ongoing.
The classification pandemic does not mean that the disease in itself is considered to be more serious than before.
What does community transmission of COVID-19 mean?
Community transmission means that COVID-19 is spreading within Sweden, and that new cases of the disease identified have no correlation to other countries. On 10 of March the risk for community transmission in Sweden was declared ‘very high’ which is the highest level.
Do I need to clean my house or handle household waste in any particular way?
In a household where someone is ill with COVID-19 it is enough to clean as usual, using products available in supermarkets. Household waste, including paper tissues from infected persons, can be disposed of in your normal way.
Quarantine and lockdown
What does quarantine mean?
Quarantine is a form of isolation of people who are not ill themselves, but may have been exposed to a disease which is dangerous to society. Anyone who has been, or is suspected to have been, exposed to a disease classified as dangerous to society (e.g. COVID-19) can be kept in quarantine as decided by the county medical officer (under the Swedish Communicable Diseases Act; 2004:168). A person can be put in quarantine in their own home. Quarantine means that you are not allowed to leave the building or receive visitors, apart from health and social care staff.
For people ill with such a disease, isolation may be imposed instead. Decisions about quarantine are always individual, and patients may appeal against them.
Can a whole town or city be placed in quarantine?
No. According to the Swedish Communicable Diseases Act (2004:168), individuals can be put in quarantine but not town or cities. It is possible, however, to impose a lockdown on a particular geographical area (see question "What is a lockdown?").
What is a lockdown?
Under the Swedish Communicable Diseases Act (2004:168), an area corresponding to a few blocks may be put in lockdown. This means, among other things, that it is prohibited to enter or leave the area. A lockdown can be used when one or more people have fallen ill with a life-threatening disease within a particular geographical area. The lockdown then serves to make it possible to find the source, and to identify any other cases of disease or transmission.
The aim with this intervention is to create a zone where an investigation can take place without risk of people entering or leaving and risking further transmission of disease. When the investigation is finished and anyone exposed has received the appropriate care or waited through the incubation period, the lockdown should be lifted.
For how long can a lockdown remain in place?
A lockdown is a temporary intervention in order to investigate cases of disease or disease transmission. Hence, it cannot be used in order to prevent people from travelling in or out of an area for a longer period of time.
What are the rules for quarantine in Sweden?
Since the coronavirus causing COVID-19 is classified as dangerous to society, the county medical officers can decide to put healthy people in quarantine. This means that people are ordered to stay within a particular building, e.g. their home, in a specific part of a building, or in a geographical area.
However, putting someone in quarantine is a forceful intervention, strictly regulated in the Communicable Diseases Act. If a less intrusive intervention, for example particular hygiene routines or suspension from work, school or daycare, can achieve the same effect it should be used instead.
How to reduce the spread of COVID-19
What can I do to protect myself and others?
We all have a personal responsibility to do what we can in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This is what you can do:
- Maintain good hand hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If handwashing facilities are not available, alcohol-based hand rub is an alternative. Avoid touching you face (eyes, nose, mouth). Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or paper tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Maintain physical distance to other people, indoors and outdoors in places where people gather such as shops, museums, libraries, waiting rooms, or civic centres.
- Maintain physical distance to other people when using public transportation such as trains, buses, or trams.
- Avoid social gatherings like parties, funerals, and weddings.
- Maintain physical distance to other people at sports grounds, in swimming baths, in gyms, and other exercise facilities. Avoid using public changing rooms.
- Do not travel at rush hour unless necessary.
- Refrain from non-essential travel.
Read more here: Protect yourself and others from spread of infection
Who should stay at home?
If you feel ill with symptoms including a runny or blocked nose, cough, or fever you should avoid contact with other people.
This also applies if you only feel a little bit unwell. Do not go to work, school or pre-school. It is very important not to risk transmitting the illness to anyone else.
If one person in a family is ill, does the whole family need to stay at home?
No, as long as siblings or other members of the family do not show symptoms of disease they can go to school, preschool or their workplace. In families where one or more people are ill, it is very important to be alert to any signs of illness.
For how long should I stay at home?
Stay at home as long as you feel ill. When you are free from symptoms and feel well again, wait another two days before returning to work, school or pre-school.
A dry cough may remain after you have recovered from the COVID-19 infection. If you have a slight cough still present seven days after you first fell ill, and two days after you are free from all other symptoms, it is not considered a risk for transmission of the disease.
This advice will continue to be updated as we learn more about COVID-19.
Should I work from home even if I feel well?
There is now an ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in the community in several regions in Sweden. Our advice is therefore that you work from home, if it is possible to do so and if your employer agrees.
This is to decrease the speed of transmission and the number of people in need of hospital care. A rapid increase of the number of infected would put unnecessary pressure on healthcare services. By slowing the rate, we give the healthcare system a better chance of coping with the extra burden.
How can we care for and protect people over the age of 70?
It is particularly important to protect older people from COVID-19. As of 1 April 2020, all visits to homes designed for older people in Sweden are banned in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
Do not have close contact with people over the age of 70 unless it is absolutely necessary. Stay at home if you have any symptoms of illness, even if you only have mild symptoms. COVID-19 may have the same symptoms as a regular cold, thus it is very important to be alert to any signs of illness.
I am 70 years old, how should I protect myself now that COVID-19 is spreading in the community?
To avoid getting infected the Public Health Agency urges anyone 70 or older to limit their contacts with other people.
You should not travel by public transport, e.g. train, bus, tram or subway, visit supermarkets or other venues where many people gather at the same time. Instead, ask friends, family or neighbours to do your shopping, pick up medicines from the pharmacy, or run other errands.
Many people feel worried, insecure and lonely under these circumstances. Remember that this situation will only remain for a limited time. Try to ease your mind by doing something you find enjoyable and stimulating. If you take a walk, maintain physical distance from other people. Keep in touch with friends and family via telephone, email or social media.
Why are universities and colleges only offering distance learning?
We recommend upper secondary schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher education or adult learning to provide distance education rather than classes on their premises. This recommendation was issued 18 March 2020.
Compared to pupils in schools and pre-schools, the students in higher education are not dependent on their educational institution for daily care. Higher education also draws students from larger geographical areas.
The purpose of this recommendation is to decrease the spread of COVID-19, and thereby protect vulnerable groups and decrease the pressure on healthcare services.
How far apart should people keep from one another?
It is important to be considerate and use good sense when we meet other people, which means we should keep at a distance from others in public places, both indoors and outdoors. There are currently no studies to show what precise distance is safe, but in view of how the infection spreads by droplets, a guideline might be no less than an arm’s length. Another reason why the Public Health Agency of Sweden is only giving an approximate measurement is that businesses such as restaurants and shops and other public spaces need a degree of flexibility to be able to operate.
The coronavirus is primarily transmitted person-to-person via droplets dispersed in the air when someone coughs, sneezes or talks. Studies on infections spread by droplet transmission show that the droplets fall down through the air quickly and do not generally travel more than a metre or so.
What should we do if someone in our household is ill with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?
If a person in a household is ill with a high temperature/fever, a cough or other symptoms of COVID-19, they should self-isolate at home. If possible, the person who is ill should self-isolate in a separate room.
- Try to keep at least an arm’s length away from the person who is ill
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible Always wash your hands before meals, when preparing food and after using the toilet
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a paper tissue Always put used tissues into the bin and wash your hands afterwards
Provided siblings or other family members have no symptoms they can carry on as normal and go to pre-school, school or work, but they should be on the lookout for symptoms and, if any arise, should stay at home.
What if I’ve recovered from COVID-19?
It is not yet clear to what extent a COVID-19 infection or the existence of antibodies provide immunity. People who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection should therefore follow the same recommendations as the rest of the population.
You have recovered if it is at least seven days since you fell ill and at least 48 hours since you experienced any symptoms.
Communicable disease surveillance and control
How does the Public Health Agency of Sweden monitor the spread of COVID-19?
The Public Health Agency uses several different surveillance systems to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Sweden. Since COVID-19 is subject to mandatory reporting under the Communicable Diseases Act, physicians and laboratories continuously supply data to be analyzed by the Public Health Agency on a daily basis.
Other sources of data are random samples from patients with symptoms of influenza, or from other groups of people. Statistics from the medical advice service 1177 (web searches and telephone calls) is also used to monitor the situation.
Collected data provides a background for decisions about interventions made with the aim of minimising mortality, the number of people affected by the disease, and the negative effects for society. Data from surveillance also makes it possible to monitor and evaluate the effects of interventions so far, and to follow and somewhat predict the further development of the pandemic.
The Public Health Agency issues a weekly report showing the number of COVID-19 cases, beginning 20 March 2020.
What does it mean that COVID-19 is classified as a disease that is dangerous to public health and to society under the terms of the Communicable Diseases Act?
Classifying the disease as dangerous to public health and to society is a measure taken in order to enhance preparedness in Sweden, permitting interventions including quarantine, isolation, health screenings on arrival in Sweden and lockdown of areas.
Depending on the intervention, the decision is made either by the county medical officer or by the Public Health Agency.
What is contact tracing?
Contact tracing is an investigation of how an infected person might have contracted the disease (e.g. COVID-19), including the identification of other people who may be infected or have been exposed to the virus.
Contact tracing can be a question of vital importance to prevent further spread or large outbreaks of the disease.
What are the rules for major events?
As of 29 March, the Swedish Government has decided to ban all public gatherings and events with more than 50 people. The aim with this legislation is to prevent situations where large numbers of people from different parts of the country come together in the same place.
Examples of public gatherings and events are demonstrations, seminars, religious gatherings, theatre performances and concerts. Sports events, dances and fairs are other examples.
An exhaustive list of situations affected by the legislation can be found in the Public Order Act 2 chapter, 1-3 §§. Further information is available from the Swedish Police (in Swedish).
What is the recommendation for private events such as weddings, graduation parties etc.
On 1 April, the Public Health Agency issued regulations and general advice regarding our shared responsibility to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Everyone is thus personally responsible and should avoid any large social gathering such as parties, weddings, funerals and other events attracting many people at the same time.
It is also of utmost importance to keep a distance to others at e.g. sports grounds, gyms, shopping centers, public transportation etc. People older than 70 should limit all close contacts with others.
Prior to all events and gatherings planning to attract less than 50 people, the Public Health Agency recommends that the organisers do a risk assessment. A model for assessing and addressing potential risks is available here (in Swedish).
What rules apply to public transport, work places and schools?
Public transport, work places and schools are not covered by the ban against public gatherings of more than 50 people. The Public Health Agency has decided that, for the time being, it is important that public transport continues to operate in order for the healthy population to be able to get to work or school.
According to the guidance published by the Public Health Agency, public transport operators should:
- provide enough services to avoid crowding,
- limit the number of passengers per vehicle, and
- inform their passengers about how to minimise the risk of disease transmission.
The guidance applies to most types of transportation, i.e. also school bus services and healthcare transports. It does not apply to private use of one’s own vehicles.
Can sports and exercise activities continue?
Exercise and sport activities can continue, but precautionary measures should be taken in order to minimise the risk for transmission of COVID-19. Outdoor exercise is preferable.
Public gatherings are limited to 50 people. This regulation also applies to activities such as sports games, contests and tournaments involving more than 50 people including participants as well as audience and organizers.
In accordance with general advice the Public Health Agency dissuades from sports games for adults. However, children and youth, born 2002 or later, can participate in sports games and tournaments as long as the regulations and general advice issued by the Public Health Agency are followed.
Advice to sports clubs are as follows:
- Avoid close contact between participants.
- Arrange training activities outside if possible.
- Limit the number of spectators and avoid crowding.
- Avoid unnecessary travels in connection with sports games, tournaments and other sports activities.
General advice for all sports and exercise activities are:
- If you are ill, even with only mild symptoms, you should not participate in any activities. You should remain at home until symptoms disappear and an additional two days thereafter. If you fall ill during exercise you should go home immediately.
- Older people, particularly those over the age of 70, should avoid public spaces and minimise their social contacts, and therefore not participate in indoor activities.
- Avoid sports activities involving close contact between participants.
- Do not share water bottles, protective gear or other equipment that might transmit saliva.
- Wipe any exercise equipment used by many people, such as gym machines, with a disinfectant, after use.
- Provide access to hand washing facilities or alcohol-based hand rub, and encourage everybody to maintain good hand hygiene.
What do the new rules for restaurants and their guests mean?
Restaurants, bars, and cafés around the country need to take special precaution regarding the risk of crowding of people in queues, around tables, and at buffets or bars. Visitors must be able to keep at a distance from each other.
All visitors should sit at tables when they eat or drink, they are not allowed to stand at a bar or similar. Staff should serve food and drinks at the tables. Unless it creates queues or crowding, guests may order and pick up their food at a counter. Take-outs can be handled as usual, as long as it does not lead to crowding or close contact between people.
The person in charge of the venue is responsible for maintaining routines minimising the risk of disease transmission. This can for example include local guidelines about access to hand washing facilities (soap and running water) for staff and guests.
What do businesses and organisations need to do?
Businesses and organisations in Sweden must take note of the recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Sweden or County Medical Officers and do what they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This means that:
- Shops and shopping centres must do what they can to limit the number of people on their premises at any one time. They should come up with alternative arrangements for checkout queues and advise customers how far apart they need to stand
- Employers can also ease the situation for their employees by:
- adapting the workplace so that staff are not at risk of infection
- making it possible for staff to work at home where possible
- adjusting working hours so that staff can avoid travelling in the rush hour
- avoiding unnecessary travel
- Associations and clubs should postpone annual meetings and other similar meetings if possible, or hold meetings digitally.
Can we run camps for children in the summer as usual?
Physical activity is good for public health and it is important that children are able to continue with their normal activities as much as possible.
Summer camps and similar activities for children and young people (born 2002 or later) can take place in the immediate locality. Organisers of camps must ensure they reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. They must also carry out a risk assessment of their various activities and put the necessary precautionary measures in place.
Please bear the following in mind:
- Training and other activities should take place outdoors if possible
- Where possible, divide participants into small groups
- Increase the distance between beds and between seats in dining rooms and other spaces if possible
- Minimise the number of activities involving a lot of people, e.g. camp leaving events or performances for parents and visitors
- Make sure there are facilities allowing people to wash their hands frequently
- Anyone who is unwell must stay at home, even if their symptoms are mild.
- Make sure that there are arrangements in place so that anyone who becomes ill can get home
What do hotels, youth hostels and campsites need to do?
All organisations in Sweden must take note of the recommendations of the Public Health Agency of Sweden or County Medical Officers and put measures in place to reduce the risk of infection. This may mean limiting the number of guests who can be on the premises at any one time. Hotels, youth hostels and campsites should also make arrangements to avoid queues, such as at check-in, and advise how far apart customers should stand. They should also ensure that staff and visitors are able to wash their hands with soap and water and provide hand sanitiser. Arrangements at different sites may vary due to differences between them, for example in terms of size or location.
If there is a restaurant, bar, café or similar facility at a particular venue, it will be covered by the new rules for restaurants and bars. Where that is the case, the County Medical Officer may consult with the municipality and take a decision to close those parts of the venue if they do not meet the requirements.
It is important for people to be aware of and to follow the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s new general guidelines. The guidelines state that large social gatherings should be avoided (see further information below). Visitors should think about whether their stay at a hotel, youth hostel or campsite is really necessary. Everyone needs to help slow down the rate of transmission of COVID-19 in Sweden and not travel unnecessarily. Hotels, youth hostels and campsites can pose particular problems in that they bring lots of people from different parts of the country together.
Information to travellers
What are the recommendations for travel within Sweden?
Please consider whether your trip is necessary – we all need to do what we can in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in Sweden. If you are ill you should not travel at all. People belonging to a risk group particularly need to consider whether they should travel or receive visitors.
If COVID-19 spreads to a majority of the regions in Sweden, we risk a situation where the healthcare system’s resources become increasingly difficult to redistribute in order to support all affected areas. It is also important to know that you need to be able to care for yourself, should you fall ill when away from home. If you require help, please be aware that resources might be limited. You should also arrange for either isolation or a way to travel home in a way that does not risk spreading the infection to others.
In addition to the above, previous recommendations regarding how to protect yourself and others from disease still apply.
What is the advice for travelling by train, bus or taxi?
When you travel by train, bus or taxi, follow our advice on how to protect yourself and others. Stay at home if you feel ill, keep your hands clean, cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or paper tissue when you cough or sneeze, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Keep at a distance from other people. Please refer to local advice and routines issued by the transportation providers.
It is still unclear whether indirect contact, i.e. contact with respiratory droplets or secretions on surfaces and items, contributes to the spread of COVID-19.
Make sure to wash your hands after travelling. Alcohol-based hand rub is an alternative when washing facilities are not available.
What is the advice regarding international travel?
The Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs issues general advice regarding travel to other countries (in Swedish).
Due to the ongoing pandemic and the continued uncertainty regarding international travel, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs currently advises against non-essential travel to all countries. This is valid from 14 March 2020 through to 15 July 2020.
For updated information, please visit the Ministry’s web page about the coronavirus and about the current situation in other countries. For questions please contact the consular department at +46 8 405 92 00, or by email.
The Public Health Agency does not issue travel recommendations for individuals or groups of people. However, we may pass on recommendations based on our international collaborations with the WHO and others to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Each person must assess their own situation, based on the need to travel and the available information on the disease from sources such as the WHO and ECDC, who present the official data reported by different countries.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) offers information on travel to different countries. For advice regarding planned journeys, please contact your travel agency or insurance company if you have questions about cancellations.
COVID-19 and children
Are children affected by COVID-19?
Children represent only a small proportion of the reported cases of COVID-19. Studies suggest that infected children only develop mild symptoms. There is currently limited knowledge about to what extent COVID-19 is transmitted between children, and there are no reports about extensive transmission within groups of children.
Even if they have mild symptoms, children can pass the infection to others (just like adults with mild symptoms). Therefore, it is important that children with fever or cold symptoms avoid seeing other people outside their immediate family. It is of particular importance that they do not meet older people or people belonging to a risk group.
New knowledge is added every day, and we monitor the situation closely to be able to give accurate advice.
Can children and youths be vaccinated as planned according to the child vaccination programme during the outbreak of COVID-19?
Yes, children and youths can be vaccinated according to the child vaccination programme also during the outbreak of COVID-19.
In case of an ongoing acute infection with fever or an affected general condition (COVID-19 or other illness) the vaccination should, as always, be postponed.
Why are schools and pre-schools not closed in Sweden?
The Public Health Agency does not currently consider it necessary to close all schools in Sweden. There are no scientific evidence indicating that such an intervention would have any significant impact on the pandemic, nor has any major transmission of COVID-19 in schools been reported.
Closing schools and pre-schools would have a negative impact on society. For example, essential workers to the public (e.g. healthcare staff) would need to stay at home with their children. It could also put vulnerable groups, such as grandparents, at risk if they help out with childcare.
School is also a place of safety and stability for many children. Before closing a school, there must be plans made for alternative places where the children should go instead. However, it is of utmost importance that staff and children who have any symptoms of illness stay at home.
The Swedish Parliament has passed a bill (2020:148) allowing temporary closure of schools and pre-schools due to extraordinary events, making it possible for the Government or the head of a school to close schools under particular circumstances. There is also a regulation (2020:115) regarding the provision of education for pupils during a school closure.
Talking to children about the new coronavirus
In times of insecurity and unrest, children can be affected in different ways. They may worry about their own or their family members’ health, death, parents losing their jobs, financial problems for their family, or that they will not be allowed to go to school. As an adult, is it important to listen and provide support if children want to talk about what is happening in society.
The WHO provides guidance on how to support children in matters related to COVID-19. Information in Swedish is available from Krisinformation.se, BRIS (Children´s Rights in Society), and Rädda barnen (Save the children).
Must I follow general guidelines or a recommendation issued by the Public Health Agency of Sweden?
Yes and no.
General guidelines are not binding, they are a recommendation as to what to do in order to comply with a law, an ordinance or a regulation.
You do not have to do exactly as the guidelines say. However, if you decide to do something differently, you must be able to show that you are complying with the binding legislation. The Public Health Agency of Sweden has produced general guidelines on COVID-19 and also on swimming facilities and indoor noise.
A recommendation is neither binding nor linked to binding legislation (unlike general guidelines). However, a recommendation is based on all the knowledge available on a particular subject, which means it is a good idea to follow a recommendation issued by an authority.