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Sweden: Swedish Parliament Gives Swedish Government Temporary Emergency Powers Because of COVID-19 Outbreak

(Apr. 22, 2020) On April 16, 2016, the Swedish Parliament passed legislation that allows the Swedish government to issue special regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak. The law amends the Swedish Infectious Disease Control Act (Smittskyddslagen (SFS 2004:168)), Sweden’s emergency legislation. (Socialutskottetsbetänkande2019/20:SoU20.)

The amendment (Prop. 2019/20:155) allows the government to issue regulations that

  • temporarily limit public gatherings;
  • temporarily close shopping malls and other places of trade
  • temporarily close social and cultural meeting places, such as bars, night clubs, restaurants, cafeterias, gyms, sporting facilities, libraries, and public meeting venues;
  • temporarily close or introduce other limits on transportation or the use of infrastructure, such as harbors, airports, or bus and train stations;
  • temporarily enable internal trade or the redistribution of medicine or protection materials and other medical equipment between private health care providers and other private actors; or
  • [introduce] other similar temporary measures.

The government’s ability under the amendment to redistribute medicine and medical equipment means it may require that one region provide another region with medicine or medical devices, even though providing health care falls within the regions’ sphere of authority. Such redistribution may be ordered only for the purpose of maintaining effective infectious disease control needed to curb the spread of the virus. Once a regulation is issued, it must also be converted into a government bill (proposition) for a new law and thereby be subject to the Swedish Parliament’s review. (6c § of amending legislation.)

The law entered into force on April 18, 2020, and automatically expires on July 1, 2020.

The legislation passed with minor changes after the opposition parties in Parliament and the Council on Legislation, which evaluates whether legislation as proposed violates the Swedish constitution, criticized the original bill as overly broad and general. As a result of the criticism, the amendment now requires that only measures that are similar to the measures enumerated above may be decided by the government.