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Sweden: Law Giving Municipalities Authority over Bars and Restaurants Not Complying with COVID-19 Measures Enters into Force

(July 16, 2020) On July 1, 2020, a new temporary law on measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 (Lagen om tillfälliga smittskyddsåtgärder på serveringsställen (SFS 2020:526)) entered into force in Sweden. The law provides municipalities with the power to supervise and fine restaurants and bars that do not comply with national and local health regulations. The law remains in force until December 31, 2020, and can be renewed or extended.

Under the new law operators of bars or restaurants (serveringsställen) must take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 within their establishments. (3 §.) For purposes of the law a serveringsställe is defined in 2 § as “an establishment where business is conducted by serving food or drinks to the public and where it is possible to consume them at the establishment.”

The law requires that operators of such establishments ensure

  1. that the facilities and accompanying outdoor areas that visitors have access to are designed such that crowding is avoided and visitors can keep a [sufficiently] safe distance from each other [to maintain] contagious infection control,
  2. that the business overall is organized in such a way that spread of disease among its visitors is prevented as far as possible is, and
  3. that there are established practices for preventing the spread of [COVID-19] among its visitors.

The aforementioned requirements also apply to entryways to such premises and other areas, if the person that operates the establishment owns or otherwise has control over the entry area. (3 §.)

Supervisory Authority

Under the new rules, the local municipal committees responsible for issues relating to environmental and health protection are to exercise supervisory authority and may issue injunctions and prohibitions to local bars and restaurants. (4 & 7 §§.) These committees must, as necessary, consult with the local medical officer responsible for contagious disease control. (7 §.) The local county administrative board (Länsstyrelsen) is to provide guidance and support to the county’s municipalities in their new assignments. (4 §.)

Accompanying Regulation

The law also authorizes the Swedish national government, or such agency that the government appoints, to issue additional regulations related to infectious disease control. (10 §.)  At the time the new law entered into force, a new regulation (Förordningen om tillfälliga smittskyddsåtgärder på serveringsställen (SFS 2020:527)) also entered into force, requiring that the Public Health Agency of Sweden (Folkhälsomyndigheten) and local county administrative board be responsible for issuing guides detailing how the oversight should be carried out. (3 § Förordningen om tillfälliga smittskyddsåtgärder på serveringsställen (SFS 2020:527).) The County Administrative Board for the Stockholm Region is responsible for coordinating the work of the individual county administration boards. (4 §.)  In addition, the Public Health Agency of Sweden may issue regulations about such measures that are regulated in the aforementioned law. (5 §.)