Topline: Sweden is taking a more liberal strategy to combat coronavirus than its European neighbors. As confirmed cases and deaths spike, some Swedes are calling for the government to rethink the country’s strategy.
- Unlike the rest of the continent, people in Sweden as of Friday were still permitted to visit restaurants for sit-down meals, get a haircut and even send children under the age of 16 to school.
- It’s all part of Sweden’s plan that focuses on self-responsibility as the government turns its attention to isolating and treating confirmed coronavirus patients, instead of widespread shelter-in-place orders.
- Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has expressed skepticism about enforcing a sustained period of lockdown. While bans have been placed on gatherings of 50 or more people and Swedes have been told to avoid unnecessary travel, these are relatively laidback restrictions when compared to other European countries that are shutting down schools and restricting everyday movement.
- The government instead has emphasized a set of guidelines, like encouraging increased hand washing, social distancing and limiting contact with vulnerable people, like those over age 70.
- Recent numbers show Swedes appear to be following social distancing guidelines even when they’re not required by law. Passenger numbers on public transportation in the capital have fallen by half, and polls indicate that half of residents there are working from home.
- However, some critics say people need more stringent guidelines to follow as both deaths and new cases have risen in the past week. Last month, more than 2,000 academics signed an open letter in March to demand tougher measures from the government
Crucial quote: “It is important to have a policy that can be sustained over a longer period, meaning staying home if you are sick, which is our message,” Tegnell said. “Locking people up at home won’t work in the longer term. Sooner or later people are going to go out anyway.”
Key background: The Swedish Health Agency reported 612 new cases on Friday alone, bringing the countrywide total to about 6,000. The same day, the death toll hit 333. Between 25 to 30 people have died each day. Stockholm has seen the most coronavirus cases, accounting for more than half of the whole country’s fatalities, according to Reuters CRI .
What to watch for: Whether coronavirus cases increase in Sweden in the coming weeks. According to The Daily Mail, one statistician in Sweden said half the population could become infected in April.
Interesting fact: According to YouGov data, Sweden is the country least afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, with only 31% of Swedes say they are “very” or “somewhat” scared that they will contract the virus.
I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.
Please follow my instagram: http://instagram.com/arminhamidian67