“Masks in public spaces do not offer better protection for the population,” said a Swedish health official.
In a new directive released on May 13 to help European countries resume safe travel and restart the continent’s tourism industry, the European Commission (EC), the bloc’s executive body, called for the use of face masks in transport hubs, vehicles used for public transport, and host establishments. The EC qualified the references to face masks in its guidance documents, saying that the measure was complementary to basic protective behaviors such as social distancing.
“The use of face masks by staff and guests should only be seen as a complementary measure, not a substitute for basic preventive measures,” wrote the EC in its guide (pdf) for resuming tourism. “Appropriate use of face masks is important and should be communicated to clients and staff.”
But while the joint Swedish-Danish airline SAS was quick to announce on Wednesday that wearing a face mask would be mandatory on all flights until the end of August, Swedish health officials did not rush to adopt the EC recommendations on face masks.
“Face masks in public spaces do not offer greater protection to the population,” said Johan Carlson of the Swedish Public Health Agency Folkhälsomyndigheten at a press conference on May 13, quoted by the Swedish newspaper. The Local.
The Swedish Public Health Agency also warns on its website that wearing a mask can increase the chances of people touching their faces to adjust the garment, thereby increasing the risk of infection.
“The virus can collect in the mask and when you remove it, the virus can be transferred to your hands and spread,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told SVT.
Rather than recommending wearing a mask, Swedish health officials have instead encouraged social distance, washing your hands, not touching your face, and staying at home if symptomatic as the best way to stop the spread of the virus. of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the new coronavirus that emerged from China and is the source of COVID-19.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said at the same press conference that wearing face masks could make maskers overly confident in their effectiveness, which could lead them to forgo major safety measures such as distancing social.
“There is a risk of a false sense of security, that you think you cannot be infected if you wear a face mask,” he said, according to The Local.
More broadly, as COVID-19 spread across Europe, Sweden’s response focused on isolating and treating the sick rather than closing down sections of society. Rather than declaring a total foreclosure, Sweden has adopted a mixture of laws and recommendations, which have been widely described as soft by the media.
But the Swedish prime minister rejected the story, saying at a press conference on Friday that “the image that Sweden makes so completely different from other countries – it is not.”
He said that the Swedish model is built on trust between citizens and “individual responsibility for doing the right thing”.
“Life does not go normally in Sweden. It’s not as usual, “he added.
The government has banned large rallies, secondary schools and universities are closed, and authorities recommend social isolation, protection of the elderly, homework, and staying at home if you feel unwell.
Elementary schools remain open, however, people have not been forced to stay indoors and can meet in small groups, and stores have not been forced to close.
He added that there was “no single answer” to the pandemic, adding that his country had chosen a strategy that would not impose undue hardship on its citizens in the short term in order to win the battle in the long term. against the deadly bug.
“This fight against COVID-19 is a marathon and the measures were therefore chosen because we firmly believe that they are viable in the long term,” he said.
“It is important to have a policy that can be maintained for a longer period of time, which means staying home if you are sick, that is our message,” said Tegnell.
“Locking people up at home will not work in the longer term,” he said. “Sooner or later, people will go out anyway. “