Sweden to ease quarantine rules over severe staff shortages


Stockholm, Jan 21 : Sweden will relax quarantine rules to prevent the collapse of critical services as the Omicron variant spreads across the country, causing severe staff shortages. "We now see a massive impact on society due to Covid-19," said Sara Byfors from the Swedish Public Health Agency at a press conference on Thursday. Several sectors have struggled with staff shortages recently, since many employees have been off infected with Covid-19, or in seven-day quarantine due to someone else in their household catching the virus, reports Xinhua news agency. The Swedish Police said that 10 percent of their staff were off on Wednesday, and contingency plans were being prepared. Schools and transportation companies have also experienced severe staff shortages -- and this is before the Omicron wave has even reached its peak, according to the Public Health Agency. Under the newly relaxed rules, quarantine has been shortened from seven to five days, without symptoms the last two days, the agency said in a joint press conference together with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and the National Board of Health and Welfare. In addition, those who have had three vaccine doses, which on Thursday accounted for 39.6 per cent of the population aged 18 and ove, or have recovered from Covid-19 during the past three months, are exempt from quarantine if a member of the household is infected. Individuals with key job functions specified by the Civil Contingencies Agency are also exempt, even if they have not yet had a booster dose. However, their workplace must implement measures to minimize the risk for transmission. Authorities are also urging those who are exempt to refrain from all forms of physical contact outside the home and workplace. Testing capacity has reached its limit due to a massive increase in the number of individuals reporting symptoms: during the second week of the year, 520,000 tests were carried out. Therefore, authorities have decided to tweak the priorities for Covid-19 testing. Individuals who can work from home have the lowest priority, while children in primary and secondary school are first in line. According to the latest figures, Sweden has reported a total of 1,741,710 Covid-19 cases since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, while the death toll stood at 15,596. /IANS


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