While EU member states adopt tough quarantine measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, including closing national borders, closing many businesses and introducing strict social distancing measures, it is one EU country that is acting unlike so far, Sweden. In Sweden, children up to the age of 16 still go to school, Shops, restaurants and cafes are open, though a recent coronavirus measure bans consumers from ordering at the counter – table service only allowed .
The borders of this state have not been closed and the gathering of more than 50 people is still allowed. As of March 27, that number was up to 500. In other towns and cities, people are still filling the streets, squares and public transport. Even on the streets it’s hard to see someone wearing a protective mask. In recent days, thousands have flocked to ski centers in the north, where there are few hospital facilities. The most severe recommendation by the government so far to citizens has been to avoid unnecessary travel and have begun social counseling for those over the age of 70 to stay home.
All of these images are hard to understand in other Nordic countries, where international borders were already closed last week and surveillance of social distancing has begun. Therefore, Swedish policies seem like a total fantasy to many people in other EU countries who are expected to face even tougher measures than they currently have. The Swedish approach has also been followed by the United Kingdom until recently. Just a few days ago, the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to follow the European quarantine trend, as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had begun to rise sharply. On March 27, it was announced that Johnson himself had tested positive for the virus. Anders Tegnell, head of the Swedish Public Health Agency, Folkhälsomyndigheten, has denied claims that Sweden’s tactics are intended to achieve “group immunity”, which occurs when a virus infects at least 60 or 70 percent of the population who most then heal and gain immunity, preventing greater infection.
Tegnell has said the government’s goal is to prevent the spread of the infection with the aim of not providing the health service at any point. As of March 27, Sweden has recorded 2,840 cases and 77 deaths – not much different than its neighbors, though the number of cases, as in other countries, has been rising rapidly in recent times. Critics say the low level of testing could in fact hide large numbers of infected people. Tegnell has become the official face of the Swedish approach and is constantly being seen in the media. So far, he has the full support of the government. Over the weekend, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven made a speech to the nation – something very unusual in this country – in which he stressed the need for responsibility and solidarity but did not announce new measures, though mentioned that additional restrictions may be necessary for a short period of time. Despite the fact that most Swedes are aware that their state is acting strangely at this time, the virus seems to have full support for the government. Citizens in Sweden attend the address to Prime Minister Lofven’s nation.
In a poll released last week, support for Lofven’s party, the Social Democrats, has actually increased by 3 per cent – which is good news for the party that has faced a split vote in recent years. In a country with a high culture of political consensus, when even the most aggressive statements are wrapped in cotton wool, there has been little resistance to government tactics to combat coronavirus. A number of media figures and doctors have questioned the wisdom of the government, while in an email exchange seen by state broadcaster SVT, some health professionals have criticized the Folkhälsomyndigheten Agency, accusing it of not being competent, endangering the population. and analyzing with greater concern economic movements rather than the danger facing public health. The latest information about canonavirus can be found on the Radio Free Europe blog The economic argument seems to have triumphed so far. PM urges citizens to buy food from local restaurants to support local businesses, as more analysts talk of stock market downturns…