Sweden has been an outlier within the world pandemic: It eschewed lockdowns and stored eating places, bars, colleges, film theaters and gymnasiums largely open. And whereas loss of life charges have been excessive in comparison with its Nordic neighbors, they have 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 providers are overrun, forcing the authorities to recalibrate their method. They imposed new restrictions on the finish of November that carry the nation’s response considerably extra consistent with 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 more durable restrictions nonetheless pale compared to the remainder of Europe and there are mounting considerations that not sufficient is being executed. Intensive care beds in hospitals within the Stockholm area are all at the moment occupied, regional well being director Bjorn Eriksson mentioned at a information convention on Tuesday.
“We’re far past one hundred pc of capability in intensive care. We’re approaching virtually double the variety of obtainable areas,” he mentioned.
Because the pandemic started, a debate has raged each inside and out of doors of Sweden over how one can curb the virus. As different international locations went into lockdown within the spring, Sweden stayed open out of concern that preserving everybody holed up at house would have long-term detrimental results on youngsters and adults and will result in melancholy, suicide, postponed well being care and job losses.
On Monday, the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven, mentioned the nation’s consultants had underestimated the chance 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 degree of circumstances.
“I feel that almost all within the career didn’t see a second wave coming,” Mr. Lofven mentioned in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Mr. Tegnell’s company is now not calling all of the pictures on virus coverage and he’s having to more and more share the stage with Swedish politicians who’ve taken on a extra energetic function.
Through the first wave, deaths have 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 mentioned, loss of life 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 circumstances because the starting of the pandemic, whereas its neighbor Finland, with a inhabitants about half of Sweden’s, has 31,110 circumstances, lower than 10 % of Sweden’s.
Sweden’s complete loss of life toll reached 7,667 as of Tuesday. The nation now has 74 deaths per 100,000 circumstances, lower than the UK, with 97, however excess of its neighbor Norway, with seven.
“I’m afraid it’s going to get even worse,” mentioned Karin Hildebrand, a heart specialist within the intensive care unit of the Sodersjukhuset hospital in Stockholm. “All of us concern the approaching weeks. We don’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 stop their jobs in the course of the first 10 months of the yr,” mentioned 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 beneath criticism for not doing sufficient.
“I hoped this grave state of affairs would change issues, however yesterday they opened the ski lifts in Sweden,” mentioned Fredrik Elgh, a professor of medical virology at Umea College and a well known critic right here of the official coronavirus response. “Taking such actions into 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 individuals.
Whereas colleges for kids beneath 16 have stayed open all through the pandemic, some at the moment are 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 individuals to restrict Christmas gatherings to a most of eight individuals.
However officers are asking, not ordering.
Underneath Swedish regulation, the federal government isn’t allowed to drive individuals to remain house or high-quality 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 a lot of the nation on Wednesday.
Eating places, espresso outlets 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 consumers. Tea Kagstrom, an 18-year-old college pupil with feathered blond hair, sat with two pals having fun with a cup of espresso. Requested why she wasn’t sporting a face masks, she replied as a result of it’s optional.
“The Public Well being Authority hasn’t mentioned that we must always put on masks in public locations,” she mentioned.
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 number of weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” mentioned 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 planet that doesn’t advocate the usage of face masks. There are greater than 170 international locations on the planet that advocate utilizing masks. However right here they’re saying there’s not sufficient science behind that. That’s nonsense,” mentioned Mr. Elgh, the virology professor.
However others nonetheless argue that the virus risk is overblown.
“Every loss of life is unhappy nevertheless it have to be put in proportion. About 85 % of those that died in Sweden additionally had one other illness, and lots of of those that died this spring would probably have died later this yr,” Johnny Ludvigsson, a pediatrician at Linkoping College, mentioned 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 mentioned. “Evaluate that with what is going to occur after we get elevated mortality amongst youthful individuals on account of elevated coronary heart assaults, late analysis of most cancers or elevated ranges of melancholy that may finish in suicide.”