Sweden’s approach in combating the spread of Covid-19 has been implemented through guidance rather than enforceable law. Unlike many of its European counterparts, it has not involved any national or community-level quarantine, nor general restrictive mobility measures such as lockdown. The response system is rather based on individual duties to prevent contagion. Each person suspecting that they may be infected with an infectious disease has the obligation to take the necessary precautions to protect others, including alerting persons with whom they might have been in contact.
Why has Sweden taken this approach? First, it must be noted that the main regulation on this matter, Communicable Diseases Act 2004, do not allow for a general quarantine and ‘lockdown’ measures. Instead, most of the disease containment and contagion prevention measures are directed towards individual patients. These measures include contact tracing and other obligations to inform, individual quarantine and compulsory treatment, prohibition from donating blood and organs, offer of vaccines under the national vaccination programme.
Apart from the nature and scope of the Communicable Diseases Act 2004, the Public Health Agency of Sweden has actively emphasised an evidence-based response, which also has to be executed in collaboration with regional partners.
In this video, the Swedish government explains (in English) more on its strategy about Covid-19.
On the 8 January 2021, a new, temporary Covid-19 Act 2021 entered into force to meet the need of a framework which allowed for general measures and prohibitions. By this act, the government has the power to issue regulations with general restrictions. This concerns, for instance, a limitation of public and private gatherings in a greater occurrence than before. These prohibitions are also enforceable with fines, and aimed mostly at limiting the maximum allowed number of persons in a given place or event; and eventually closing down parks, sport or cultural facilities, businesses, public transportation, etc. The Act expires at the end of September 2021.
Sweden is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy based on popular sovereignty and the rule of law. Although Sweden is a unitary State, there is a high degree of regional and local autonomy. According to the Instrument of Government, the 290 municipalities (kommuner) and the 21 regional health organisations (regioner) enjoy self-government, ie elected local authorities have a high level of decisional autonomy. However, law-making as well as judicature are entirely a matter for the national State. In the context of Covid-19, the competence to take action lies with the State. The regions exercise supervision of the implementation of the regulations issued on the basis of the temporary Covid-19 Act 2021, ensuring that they are complied with. On the national level, several governmental agencies share the responsibility to handle the pandemic, such as the Public Health Agency of Sweden and Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency.