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Sweden introduces harsh alcohol controls to stop coronavirus spread, UK deaths surge

As coronavirus cases surge across Europe, previous restrictions outlier Sweden has taken the harsh step of limiting alcohol sales in bars and restaurants in the hopes of curbing the spread of infection. Meanwhile, the UK hit a grim milestone on Wednesday, becoming the first European country to reach 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths.‘MOVING TO DARKER TIMES’Swedish Prime…

As coronavirus cases surge across Europe, previous restrictions outlier Sweden has taken the harsh step of limiting alcohol sales in bars and restaurants in the hopes of curbing the spread of infection.

Meanwhile, the UK hit a grim milestone on Wednesday, becoming the first European country to reach 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

‘MOVING TO DARKER TIMES’

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warned his nation that the “darkness will be with us for a while now” as cases in the country surged to more than 166,000.

The government has proposed banning the sale of alcohol in pubs and restaurants after 10pm, after Mr Lofven suggested people were becoming too relaxed and not observing social distancing.

The ruling would mean venues would have to close at 10.30pm, after stopping the sale of alcoholic drinks half an hour beforehand.

“Unfortunately it also seems like we are moving towards darker times when it comes to the spread of infection in parts of the world, in Europe and here in Sweden,” Mr Lofven said on Wednesday. “All indications are now going in the wrong direction.”

The Prime Minister also warned the people of Sweden he was prepared to take more drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus in the country – including placing limits on the numbers of people who could gather.

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“We are ahead of a situation that risks becoming completely dark. We risk more people getting sick, more people dying, more overworked people in the healthcare sector, more postponed operations.”

He said there were many people in Sweden “doing the right thing”, including practising social distancing and turning down invitations to social gatherings, but added: “Some people aren’t.”

The country’s Health and Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren called the situation in Sweden “unsustainable” and said pubs and bars were a “high-risk environment”. She said they posed a risk not only because they encouraged socialising but because alcohol encouraged people to let their guard down.

At the start of the pandemic, Sweden was famous for taking a herd immunity approach, refusing lockdowns and keeping shops, restaurants and cafes open. Its leaders predicted reaching a level of immunity at that time would protect it from a predicted second wave.

In May, Dr Anders Tegnell, the country’s chief epidemiologist, told the Financial Times: “In the autumn there will be a second wave.

“Sweden will have a high level of immunity and the number of cases will probably be quite low. But Finland will have a very low level of immunity. Will Finland have to go into a complete lockdown again?”

That expected immunity doesn’t appear to have been achieved though, with reports even back in June already indicating a low level of immunity in the community.

A study at that time, carried out by the country’s Public Health Agency, found that just 6.1 per cent of the country’s population had developed coronavirus antibodies by late May. This figure was far short of the 40 per cent predicted by Dr Tegnell.

The current proposed changes for cutting alcohol sales won’t come into effect in Sweden until they are voted on by legislators later this month, according to The Local.

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UK DEATHS SURGE TO 50,000

As the UK is now in it’s second national lockdown, coronavirus cases have continued to surge with the nation reaching 1.26 million cases on Thursday – the eighth largest number of cases in the world.

The country is currently in fifth place for the most reported number of deaths, after becoming the first European country to reach 50,000 deaths from coronavirus this week – a grim milestone reached on Remembrance Day.

On the same day, some 22,950 people tested positive for COVID-19 across the UK, according to official UK government figures. The country also reported 595 deaths linked to coronavirus in that 24-hour period. The UK government reports a coronavirus death if a person dies within 28 days of a positive test.

In the last seven days, 10,751 people have been hospitalised with coronavirus across the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week ordered England into a second national lockdown to try to curb the outbreak. It will remain in place until at least early December.

Despite news of a potentially effective vaccine treatment on the horizon, he warned the country was “not out of the woods”.

“Every death is a tragedy,” he said. “I do think we have got now to a different phase in the way that we treat it.”

The UK’s opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer criticised Mr Johnson for his “slow” response to the second wave.

Mr Starmer said the Prime Minister owed it to the families who had lost loved ones “to get on top” of the crisis now gripping the UK.

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