Since Monday, the citizens of the Nordic nations can largely travel to and from each others countries for work and leisure, but the Swedes are still subject to restrictions due to a higher infection rate in their countries.
The Swedish Foreign minister Ann Linde told CNBC on Tuesday that she had “mixed feelings” about the Nordic countries’ attitude towards Sweden at the moment, and that the move to exclude his country could damage relations.
“On the one hand, we had an absolutely fantastic co-operation with the Nordic countries, when it comes to the repatriation of our citizens … Sweden has taken home 8 600 Swedish from anywhere in the world with the help of our Nordic friends, and we have also taken 1 500 non-Swedish with one of our flights, so this has been fantastic for Nordic cooperation,” she said.
“But on the other hand … I think that these people who were very used to working as if there were no borders, have been very clear wake-up call that the different nations are treated differently) and I think it will be, in many people, creating wounds that may be difficult to heal. ”
“I don’t worry about the future of the Nordic relations, and I’m really worried that it has created wounds that will take time to heal, particularly in the border area,” she said. Linde believed that the tensions of “healing” and that the government would do everything it can to help, ” but it might take some time. “
The country of nearly 10 million people went against the grain in Europe, and a large part of the world, imposing a strict lock on the public life when the sars coronavirus pandemic, which emerged at the end of February and early March.
Instead of shuttering all but essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies, like most European countries, Sweden, the government has authorized bars, restaurants and schools for under 16 years of age to remain open. It does prohibit mass rallies, and visits to elderly care homes, who have seen acute outbreaks of the virus, and has advocated for the social distance, the work at home, and a good personal hygiene.
The defence of Sweden, the strategy for the virus, Linde said that the goal of Sweden was the same as its neighbors: “To save lives and health, and to keep the health system able to manage the pressure of the coronavirus, to mitigate the effects on companies and work and this, by a mix of legally-binding measures and recommendations. “
“In the two areas, we can see where we have been the most different from the others. And that is that we have been keeping our schools up to the ninth year, until the age of 16 years, and we have not had a lock, which means that people should stay at home, ” she said.
“But we have been very, very clear on the maintenance of social distancing, hand hygiene, not traveling, not going more than two hours from your home, do not go on public transport and working at home, if possible, and we have made it economically possible for people to remain at home, even with the lesser, the lesser symptoms. And we can now see that over 80% of the people are always the result of these recommendations, ” she said.
Nevertheless, the figures paint a sober picture of Sweden, the experience of the pandemic, compared to its neighbors. Sweden has registered 52,323 cases of coronavirus and 4,939 deaths, while Finland, Norway and Denmark (all of which have populations around half the size of Sweden) have seen far fewer cases and deaths. Denmark, for example, has reported 12,450 cases and 598 deaths and two other neighbors, even fewer cases and deaths.
Linde has said that it was still too early to say whether the Swedish approach could be better, and that there are nuances to the epidemic seen in the country, compared to other nations.
“The week the virus broke out was the Spring vacation in Sweden and we have had a lot more international travelers, more than a million of dollars, coming to Stockholm from all over the world. We have detected that, at that time, Italian and Austrian passengers, and we followed them through the tests. But now, later, when we know more about the virus, we could see that it was the virus from the united States, united kingdom, Belgium and other countries where we have not done this test, and follow-up, ” she said.
The Virus does not stop at the border
As all European countries are lifting more and more restrictions on the public life, in Sweden also, it is to see the number of daily infections continue to decrease.
The administrator-in-Chief of the Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told CNBC on Tuesday that the situation is improving day by day. “If you look at the number of people admitted to hospital, the number of people admitted to the Icu (intensive care units) and the rate of mortality, all of these figures are either going down or on a tray. If the epidemic continues, but at base, it is very much on a plateau. ”
Linde has said that she speaks regularly with his counterparts in Denmark, Norway and Finland on a regular basis, and that she hoped the restrictions would soon be lifted, especially after the EU had already recommended to member states to lift all travel restrictions from the 15th of June, and to allow non-essential travel in the EU, starting from 1 July.
People sit on the terrace, coffee tables in Stockholm, Sweden, on Thursday, March 26, 2020. Sweden has started to look like a global outlier in its response to the coronavirus.
Tegnell said that more discussion and understanding is needed around the virus, noting that it is necessary to consider other factors such as the amount of testing being done, the situation in the Intensive care units and of regional differences in the rate of infection — to evaluate the risks posed by different countries, rather than just looking at the rate of new infections.
“This is not a disease that you will stop anywhere by the closure of the borders, keep the border open is very important for many reasons,” he says.
“There may be economic and social consequences of families being broken up, the consequences for health in the long term because the economy goes bad. So many things happen when you close the borders, and the whole concept of the European Union is very good about keeping the border open and that has been such a success. “