Sweden is seeing an uptick in coronavirus infections and introducing targeted measures, but the country that famously refused to lock down is sticking to its guns and insisting 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 while many European countries are again introducing draconian measures like partial lockdowns or curfews to curb the spread of the virus, Sweden — which has recorded 5,930 Covid-related deaths, one of Europe’s highest per capita death tolls — is just adjusting its softer approach with targeted tweaks.
This week, it announced stricter local guidelines in Uppsala, a university town 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of Stockholm that has seen a spike in cases since students returned in the autumn.
Among other things, locals have been advised to avoid public transport and in-person contact with people outside their own household until November 3.
“People can only hold out with such strict guidelines for a limited period and the timing is important. You can’t start too early and you can’t wait too long… We hope this is a good time,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said.
On Thursday the country also introduced restrictions on nightclubs, with Prime Minister Stefan Lofven admonishing Swedes “that the party is over now in nightclubs, and it needs to stay that way for as long as necessary”.
Yet Sweden remains one of the only countries in the world that still does not recommend face masks, arguing they provide a false sense of security that undermines social distancing efforts.
In the capital Stockholm, daily life appears to carry on almost as normal, as locals stroll through the city bundled up against the chilly autumn weather and stopping in at cafes, restaurants and shops that have remained open throughout the pandemic.
And while images in the media occasionally show crowded city buses and restaurants, surveys by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency found that 80 percent of Swedes have changed their behaviour as a result of recommendations.—AFP