Coronavirus: Sweden remains firm on controversial approach to COVID-19

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Laughing couples in open restaurants and socializing friends in city parks – the Swedish approach to the coronavirus pandemic is almost unique in Europe.

The Scandinavian country has raised questions about how it is handling the global health crisis, as the government supports a mitigation strategy – allowing COVID-19 to spread slowly without overwhelming the health care system.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven urged the citizens of the country to behave “like adults” and not to spread “panic or rumors”.

Authorities have been accused in recent weeks, both internationally and nationally, of endangering the lives of citizens because they have not taken sufficiently stringent measures.

A study published in the medical journal The Lancet indicated that “the initial slowness of the reaction of countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden now seems more and more unwelcome”.

The UK has since abandoned the “flexible” approach it also initially adopted in response to the pandemic.

Swedish media reported on Saturday that the country’s government was asking for more powers to implement a lockdown and change its containment status.

But the country’s public health authority, which held a press conference on Monday, did not impose any other restrictions.

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell reiterated that the spread of infection to the elderly in Sweden is a major problem, adding that “when I talk to my Nordic colleagues they don’t have the same problem” .

The Swedish public health authority has identified specific risk groups for COVID-19, including those over the age of 70 and those with underlying diseases.

But the authority added that “as the virus is new, we still do not know enough which groups are at risk of serious illness”.

As usual?

Unlike many neighboring European countries, Sweden has not imposed a quarantine on its population.

Instead, the government called on citizens to “shoulder their responsibilities” and follow the recommendations of the health authorities.

“We don’t do business as usual in Sweden,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said on Thursday at an international press conference.

People over the age of 70 and those deemed “at risk” are encouraged to stay at home, and secondary schools and universities, which have been closed since mid-March, are encouraged to offer distance education.

Anders Tegnell said on Monday that working conditions in Sweden should allow staff to work from home “if they have any symptoms.”

Authorities have repeatedly recommended that people with symptoms of the virus isolate themselves.

The strictest measures to date include banning gatherings of more than 50 people and banning visits to retirement homes.

Per Bergfors Nyberg told Good Morning Europe that “the government’s response is to limit the spread to the elderly”.

“Sweden does not want a general lock-up because it would lose 20-25% of the much-needed health care workers in general.”

“This means that many people have returned to Sweden from foreign countries to lead a somewhat normal life.”

To date, Sweden has reported more than 7,200 cases of COVID-19 and at least 475 deaths, according to the country’s public health ministry.

However, the number of cases diagnosed may reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections, as Sweden only tests severe cases and health workers.

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