Britain is not taking a Swedish approach to Covid-19, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, amid sharp criticism of new coronavirus restrictions six months after the government first imposed a national lockdown.

During an interview on BBC radio on Wednesday, the minister was asked if Britain was now taking an approach similar to that of the Scandinavian country in its handling of the coronavirus crisis. “I don’t accept that characterization,” Raab said.

The ‘Swedish approach’ is characterized by avoiding a lockdown and, instead, emphasizing social distancing and hygiene. That country’s health authorities have tried, if not to completely eradicate a disease, to at least slow the spread of the virus.

The British government announced new measures on Tuesday to try to control the rise in coronavirus cases. From Thursday, office-based employees should work from home again, if possible, and pubs, bars and restaurants must offer only table service and close at 10pm. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons to “summon the discipline and the resolve” to avoid a second national lockdown.

The UK’s Covid-19 death toll is close to 42,000, and the highest in Europe, and new infections have been accelerating in recent weeks.

Commenting on the possibility of a new national lockdown, Raab told Sky News: “That is what we want to avoid.” In another interview, with LBC radio, he said: “What we don’t want is to have to take even more severe measures as we go through Christmas.”

At the same time, Scotland’s semi-autonomous government is taking more stringent measures, including banning any socializing between households.

“I’ve made a judgment that we are again at a tipping point with Covid, and I’m looking at data that alarms me, frankly,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on ITV. She added, citing her scientific advisers, that the package announced by Johnson would be insufficient to bring down the rate of transmission.

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