Sweden has been an outlier within the international pandemic: It eschewed lockdowns and saved eating places, bars, colleges, film theaters and gymnasiums largely open. And whereas dying charges had been excessive in comparison with its Nordic neighbors, they had been corresponding to these of bigger European international locations.
Now, a second wave has introduced a brand new surge in infections and Stockholm’s emergency companies are overrun, forcing the authorities to recalibrate their strategy. They imposed new restrictions on the finish of November that deliver the nation’s response considerably extra according to the remainder of Europe. They embody drastic cutbacks on the scale of public gatherings and a few faculty closures.
However with ski lifts, eating places and bars all remaining open, Sweden’s harder restrictions nonetheless pale compared to the remainder of Europe and there are mounting issues that not sufficient is being achieved. Intensive care beds in hospitals within the Stockholm area are all presently occupied, regional well being director Bjorn Eriksson stated at a information convention on Tuesday.
“We’re far past 100 p.c of capability in intensive care. We’re approaching virtually double the variety of obtainable areas,” he stated.
For the reason that pandemic started, a debate has raged each inside and out of doors of Sweden over learn how to curb the virus. As different international locations went into lockdown within the spring, Sweden stayed open out of concern that protecting everybody holed up at house would have long-term detrimental results on kids and adults and will result in melancholy, suicide, postponed well being care and job losses.
On Monday, the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven, stated the nation’s consultants had underestimated the probability of a second wave. It was the primary time an official criticized, even obliquely, the Public Health Agency of Sweden, the skilled group tasked with making coronavirus insurance policies, and the epidemiologist who leads it, Anders Tegnell.
In October, Mr. Tegnell said that he hoped that the unfold of immunity within the inhabitants would assist Sweden get via the autumn with a low stage of instances.
“I feel that the majority within the occupation didn’t see a second wave coming,” Mr. Lofven stated in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Mr. Tegnell’s company is now not calling all of the photographs on virus coverage and he’s having to more and more share the stage with Swedish politicians who’ve taken on a extra lively function.
Through the first wave, deaths had been excessive, particularly among the many aged. On Tuesday, a particular fee concluded in an initial report that the federal government had failed to guard the aged and was unprepared for the pandemic. That stated, dying tolls amongst these above 80 have been excessive all throughout Europe.
An infection numbers and deaths have been rising steadily since October. By Tuesday, Sweden had reached a complete of 320,098 instances because the starting of the pandemic, whereas its neighbor Finland, with a inhabitants about half of Sweden’s, has 31,110 instances, lower than 10 p.c of Sweden’s.
Sweden’s complete dying toll reached 7,667 as of Tuesday. The nation now has 74 deaths per 100,000 instances, lower than the UK, with 97, however excess of its neighbor Norway, with seven.
“I’m afraid it’s going to get even worse,” stated Karin Hildebrand, a heart specialist within the intensive care unit of the Sodersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm. “All of us worry the approaching weeks. We shouldn’t have sufficient personnel to take care of this.”
Nurses have left their jobs in giant numbers because the starting of the pandemic.
“Round 3,000 nurses have give up their jobs in the course of the first 10 months of the 12 months,” stated Sineva Ribeiro, the president of the Swedish Affiliation of Well being Professionals. “Those that remained have been working very, very exhausting.”
And now the federal government is coming below criticism for not doing sufficient.
“I hoped this grave state of affairs would change issues, however yesterday they opened the ski lifts in Sweden,” stated Fredrik Elgh, a professor of scientific virology at Umea College and a widely known critic right here of the official coronavirus response. “Taking such actions under consideration, I don’t suppose the federal government is taking the agency motion I had hoped for.”
Mr. Lofven’s authorities, in an try to cease the unfold of the virus, issued new suggestions on the finish of November that banned gatherings of greater than eight folks.
Whereas colleges for youngsters below 16 have stayed open all through the pandemic, some are actually being closed after outbreaks. A ban on serving alcohol after 10 p.m. has been applied. On Monday, a state company despatched out mass textual content messages warning folks to restrict Christmas gatherings to a most of eight folks.
However officers are asking, not ordering.
Beneath Swedish regulation, the federal government isn’t allowed to power folks to remain house or tremendous those that flout the suggestions.
The Netherlands, with decrease an infection charges than Sweden, went right into a full lockdown on Tuesday. Germany closes down many of the nation on Wednesday.
Eating places, espresso retailers and bars in Sweden proceed to be open.
Face masks aren’t really useful in Sweden as a result of the Public Well being Authority says there isn’t sufficient scientific proof that they work.
So, on Monday afternoon the “Stylish Konditori,” which sells espresso and sweets in Stockholm, was full of shoppers. Tea Kagstrom, an 18-year-old college pupil with feathered blond hair, sat with two associates having fun with a cup of espresso. Requested why she wasn’t carrying a face masks, she replied as a result of it’s optional.
“The Public Well being Authority hasn’t stated that we must always put on masks in public locations,” she stated.
The federal government is drafting an emergency regulation that may give it powers to order lockdowns and shut down companies when the virus is spreading.
Nonetheless critics are calling for harsher measures.
“We’d like a couple of weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” stated Tove Fall, a professor of molecular epidemiology at Uppsala College close to Stockholm. “Different international locations are taking a lot larger precautions at decrease transmission ranges.”
Some are upset that face masks aren’t utilized in Sweden.
“We’re the one democracy on the earth that doesn’t advocate using face masks. There are greater than 170 international locations on the earth that advocate utilizing masks. However right here they’re saying there’s not sufficient science behind that. That’s nonsense,” stated Mr. Elgh, the virology professor.
However others nonetheless argue that the virus menace is overblown.
“Every dying is unhappy but it surely have to be put in proportion. About 85 p.c of those that died in Sweden additionally had one other illness, and plenty of of those that died this spring would seemingly have died later this 12 months,” Johnny Ludvigsson, a pediatrician at Linkoping College, stated in an interview with the newspaper Aftonbladet.
“I feel we’re being overly dramatic concerning the variety of deaths in the course of the corona pandemic,” he stated. “Examine that with what’s going to occur after we get elevated mortality amongst youthful folks on account of elevated coronary heart assaults, late analysis of most cancers or elevated ranges of melancholy that may finish in suicide.”