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COVID-19: Sweden’s less stringent measures to change

Sweden remained rare country, not imposing lockdown or closing of schools, cafes

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal, Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak   | 06.04.2020
COVID-19: Sweden’s less stringent measures to change

LONDON/ANKARA

Even as the death toll in Europe due to the global COVID-19 pandemic has reached 40,000, Sweden has so far not enforced strict social distancing measures.

The Scandinavian nation remains one of the rare countries with relaxed measures. It has so far not introduced lockdown measures and has kept schools and cafes open and allows gatherings up to 500 people.

Swedish government’s scientific advisers have believed in “herd immunity” while handling the pandemic. Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population becomes immune to infection.

According to Clinical Infectious Diseases, a medical journal published by Oxford University Press, there is a smaller probability that non-immune individuals will come into contact with the virus if there is a greater proportion of immune individuals in a community.

According to the U.S-based John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, Sweden with a population of 10 million has recorded 6,830 COVID-19 cases with 401 deaths.

“We will have more seriously ill people who need intensive care,” Prime Minister Stefan Lovfen told the local paper the Dagens Nyheter at the weekend.

“We are facing thousands of deaths. We need to prepare for that,” he added.

He said, although the virus spread slower in Sweden than Spain and Italy, it does not mean there will be fewer deaths.

Sweden moving to stringent measures

With the latest developments, Sweden is now taking further measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Under the new legislation, the Swedish parliament will be consulted this week, before the government takes any new emergency steps, which will include shutting airports, train and bus stations and closing shops and restaurants.

Banning social gatherings of more than 50 people, initiating online classes at universities and high schools are among the new measures being introduced by the government.

On Sunday, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf addressed the public via television and asked them to stay at home during Easter break.

“We are keen to travel and perhaps spend time with family and friends [during holidays]. Many go to church. But, this Easter, some of this will not be possible. We have to accept this. We have to rethink, prepare ourselves for staying home,” said the King from his self-isolation place Stenhammars Slott, south of Stockholm.

Experts critical
Experts in the country have been criticizing the government’s approach to tackling the health crisis and not taking stringent measures.

State broadcaster SVT published an email thread last month showing that leading Swedish experts were critical of government move.

“I am deeply concerned,” Fredrik Elgh, a virology professor at Umea University, told SVT.

“I would rather quarantine Stockholm. We are almost the only country in the world not doing everything we can to curb the infection. This is bloody serious,” he added.

“How many lives are they prepared to sacrifice so as not to risk greater impact on the economy?” asked another expert in the thread, Joacim Rocklov, a professor of epidemiology and public health at Umea University, located in the eastern Swedish city of Umea. 

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