Sweden sticks to guns as coronavirus cases rise

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STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN – Sweden sees increase in coronavirus infections and introduces targeted measures, but country that refused to lock down is sticking to its guns and insists coercive methods are not the way to go . After two months of declining cases in July and August, Sweden has seen infections rise steadily since mid-September.

But as many European countries again introduce drastic measures such as partial lockdowns or curfews to curb the spread of the virus, Sweden – which has recorded 5,930 deaths linked to COVID, one of the highest rates of per capita mortality in Europe – simply adjusts its approach with targeted adjustments.

This week, he announced stricter local guidelines in Uppsala, a university town 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Stockholm that has seen an increase in the number of cases since students returned in the fall.

Among other things, residents were advised to avoid public transport and face-to-face contact with people outside their homes until November 3.

“People can only keep up with such strict guidelines for a limited period of time and timing is important. You can’t start too early and you can’t wait too long. … We hope this is the right time, ”said the epidemiologist. Says Anders Tegnell.

The country also introduced restrictions on nightclubs on Thursday, with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven warning the Swedes “that the party is now over in the nightclubs and must remain so as long as necessary”.

Yet Sweden remains one of the only countries in the world that still does not recommend face masks, arguing that they provide a false sense of security that undermines social distancing efforts.

Life goes on

In the capital Stockholm, everyday life seems to go on almost as normally, as locals stroll through the city, bundled up in the autumn chill and stop at cafes, restaurants and shops that have remained open. throughout the pandemic.

And while media images sometimes show crowded city buses and restaurants, surveys by the Swedish Civilian Contingency Agency have found that 80% of Swedes have changed their behavior as a result of recommendations.

They work from home or limit social contact – although there are no fines or penalties for ignoring them.

In Stockholm’s Sodermalm district, where most unmasked cyclists and pedestrians rushed to work during the morning rush hour, Roger Palmqvist told AFP he trusted the Swedish approach.

But he admitted that the lighter Swedish touch probably wouldn’t work everywhere.

“There’s nothing that forces you, but the Swedes are like that you know, they follow (the rules),” the 60-year-old ship captain said, noting that cultures were different in other parts of the country. Europe.

Facilitate other measures

On Thursday, the government also lifted its special recommendation in place since April for people over 70 and groups at risk to protect themselves.

There were concerns that the measure would isolate them too much and lead to other public health problems like depression and loneliness.

These groups have been urged to avoid shops, public transport and any place where groups of people congregate.

Earlier this month, the government also lifted its ban on visiting nursing homes – one of the few restrictions introduced during the pandemic.

Public gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned since the end of March, but the government said Thursday that cultural and sporting events can now accommodate 300 people provided they are seated with respect for social distancing.

While polls show a majority of Swedes support the country’s approach, the strategy has had its detractors, both abroad and at home.

Some have accused Sweden of playing Russian roulette with the lives of citizens at the start of the pandemic, as the death toll far exceeded that of neighboring countries which had adopted stricter measures.

And an angry debate recently erupted in the media over the Swedish policy of treating most elderly COVID-19 patients with palliative care, deeming them too weak for intensive care.

More than half of his deaths from COVID-19 have been in retirement homes for the elderly.

The authorities have meanwhile repeatedly stressed that Sweden’s overall strategy has been chosen to face a “marathon, not a sprint”.

Johan Carlson, director of the Swedish Public Health Agency, said he believed Europe had shown that closures and reopenings were “not the way forward”.

“Our philosophy is to create a situation where you can live your life in a reasonably normal way given the restrictions that are in place,” Carlson said, adding that any approach required widespread acceptance and buy-in.

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