Swedish authorities want to bring in local lockdowns to stem the rapid spread of coronavirus in the country, experts have revealed.
The move marks a new approach in Sweden's handling of the virus - after the country kept bars and restaurants open while the rest of the world shut down in March.
'It's more of a lockdown situation - but a local lockdown,' Johan Nojd, who leads the infectious diseases department in Uppsala, told The Telegraph.
Coronavirus cases have been gradually increasing since the start of September, dashing the country's hopes for immunity.
A seven-day average of 65 per million people per day was reported to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Friday. This is compared to 71, 40 and 25 cases per million in Denmark, Finland and Norway.
Mr Wallensten said: 'If I should speculate on what could be a reason why we have not yet, and it is only 'yet' because figures are rising in Sweden, we are not seeing the same extent of transmission, it may be the fact we did perhaps in your view have a lighter touch'. Pictured: Daily new confirmed cases in Sweden over the pandemic
The new rules, expected to come into force on Monday, will allow regional health authorities to ask citizens to avoid public places such as shopping centres, museums, libraries, swimming pools, concerts and gyms.
Authories could also ask people to stay away from public transport or avoid visiting elderly or at-risk groups. The rules would be offered as guidelines rather than requirements with the country continuing to avoid fines.
Bitte Brastad, chief legal officer at the agency, said the new measures were 'something in between regulations and recommendations' and Dr Nojd confimed further measures would be imposed if contact tracing shows links between infections and certain areas.
The Scandinavian country was a talking point during the pandemic for its resistance to imposing a national lockdown like its European neighbours.
The move marks a new approach in Sweden's handling of the virus - after the country kept bars and restaurants open while the rest of the world shut down in March. Pictured, people walk on Stranvagen in Stockholm on September 19
Anders Wallensten, deputy to the state's leading epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, said the country has 'some immunity as a consequence of how we have managed' the crisis.
Unlike most countries, Sweden did not go into a lockdown when the pandemic spread across Europe in the spring.
Instead, there was an emphasis on personal responsibility, with most bars, schools, restaurants and salons remaining open while the rest of Europe shut down.
As a result, cases are not rising as drastically as in the UK, Spain and France because a layer of immunity has stopped people from catching it, he suggested.
But Mr Wallensten claimed 'herd immunity' was never a goal in itself, despite officials indicating it was on a number of occasions.
He said Swedes have not become tired of the restrictions because they have remained the same throughout the whole pandemic in order to avoid confusion.
The new rules, expected to come into force on Monday, will allow regional health authorities to ask citizens to avoid public places such as shopping centres, museums, libraries, swimming pools, concerts and gyms. Pictured, people enjoying a drink in Stockholm in April
Dr Gabriel Scally, an epidemiologist at the Royal Society of Medicine, said 'clear and consistent messaging' was what the UK Government failed to do.
Dr Anders Tegnell guided the nation through the pandemic, and previously said the 'world went mad' with lockdowns.
Dr Tegnell has repeatedly insisted the government's objective was not to achieve rapid herd immunity but rather to slow the spread of the coronavirus to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed.
Herd immunity approaches to managing the coronavirus crisis are a 'dangerous fallacy unsupported by the scientific evidence', a group of researchers has warned.
Adopting a herd immunity strategy would not end the pandemic but rather result in recurring epidemics, according to an open letter signed by 80 international researchers published by The Lancet this week.
The authors argue that any strategy relying on immunity from natural infections of Covid-19 is 'flawed', adding that uncontrolled transmission in younger people risks ill-health and death across a whole population.
Instead, the letter calls for suppression of the virus until there is an effective vaccine.
The letter says: 'The arrival of a second wave and the realisation of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable.
'Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the vulnerable.
'This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.'
The authors warn there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity after natural infection, and so the strategy could result in repeated waves of transmission over several years.
This would put vulnerable populations at risk for the 'indefinite future', as it would not end the Covid-19 pandemic but result in recurrent epidemics, they add.
The researchers argue that defining who is vulnerable would be 'complex', while prolonged isolation of large swathes of a population is 'practically impossible and highly unethical'.
Additionally, the authors say it is still not understood who might suffer from long Covid – when people experience symptoms months after infection.
'The evidence is very clear: controlling community spread of Covid-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months,' the letter concludes.
It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock dismissed herd immunity as 'flawed' without a vaccine, telling the Commons it was 'simply not possible' to segregate the old and the vulnerable.
Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Hancock criticised the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, which calls for an easing of lockdown measures in a switch of strategy to a herd immunity approach.