The development marks a reversal of Sweden’s previous doubts regarding face coverings, and coincides with an increase in transmission rates. On Tuesday, Stockholm authorities recommended the use of masks on public transport, not just in rush hour but at all times. They also want coverings to be used in shops and in offices.
The number of new coronavirus cases rose 27% last week in the Swedish capital, which not that long ago saw its intensive-care resources pushed to the brink. The relentlessness of the virus has driven Sweden’s government to reconsider its hands-off approach, and parliament enacted legislation last month to allow tougher pandemic restrictions.
Sweden’s stance on face masks has long been controversial, with state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell repeatedly questioning their efficacy. But after almost a year of intense debate, such coverings are set to become more widespread in Scandinavia’s most populous nation.
“We need to increase face-mask wearing a lot,” infection control officer Maria Rotzen Ostlund said. “However, disposable face masks are only a complement, and the most important thing is to keep a distance.”