Sweden cracks down on overcrowded bars as coronavirus cases rise

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Sweden began cracking down on overcrowded bars Sunday in a marked departure from its lax approach to the coronavirus that had garnered international criticism.

The bars police targeted were allegedly flouting social distancing guidelines, AFP reported. Sweden, with a population of some 10.3 million, has permitted schools, restaurants and bars to remain open as long as people adhere to those guidelines.

People drink and eat at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, Sunday, April 26, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

People drink and eat at an outdoor restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden, Sunday, April 26, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic.  (TT News Agency via AP)

Data has shown most Swedes obeying the rules. But multiple photos have circulated of Swedes either outside, crammed in restaurants, or lined up too closely at nightclubs.

The apparent disregard for social distancing prompted authorities to warn last week they would be stepping up enforcement to ensure compliance. Still, some bars and restaurants remained packed over the weekend.

"The main problem was overcrowding, both inside the premises and outdoors," Stockholm health official Per Follin told news agency TT.

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Sweden’s approach has been especially criticized by its Nordic neighbors, all of which have implemented stricter preventative measures.

Swedish officials have countered that their plan is sustainable in the long-term and such draconian measures carried out in other countries do not warrant their overall impact on society.

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As of Sunday, the country has recorded nearly 19,000 cases with 2,274 deaths, according to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University.