STOCKHOLM, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Sweden's Public Health Agency has for the first time issued recommendations for wearing face masks on public transport, but only during weekday rush hours.
According to the new guidelines, published on Wednesday, Swedes aged 16 and above should wear face masks on public transport between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays.
The Public Health Agency has also urged public-transport operators to provide free face masks for commuters, to inform them about the proper way of wearing face masks and to help dispose of used ones in a safe way.
"It is more effective to keep a distance than to be close to others while wearing a face mask but we know that it can be hard to avoid crowds on public transport despite the recommendation to use other means of transport whenever possible. In such instances, face masks may be useful," state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said in a press release.
According to the World Health Organization, face masks should be used as part of a comprehensive strategy of measures to suppress COVID-19 transmission and save lives.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreaks in early 2020, wearing face masks in public has been widely accepted in Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam to limit the spread of COVID-19.
A total of 437,379 people in Sweden have tested positive for COVID-19, out of whom 8,727 have died, official data showed.
On Wednesday, Sweden registered 243 new COVID-19-related deaths, while the Public Health Agency said that there has been a lag in reporting over the Christmas holidays and the real figure is likely higher.