“I think we have failed. We have a large death toll and it is terrible.”
This is how the king of Sweden, Carlos Gustavo, defined the year 2020, marked by the country’s controversial strategy against covid-19.
Sweden has been criticized for its management of the pandemic, in which it never imposed the total confinement that was seen in other European countries, and based, rather than on mandatory rules, on recommendations to the population.
There have been nearly 350,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 7,800 deaths in Sweden.
“The people of Sweden have suffered tremendously in difficult conditions. One thinks of all the family members who have not been able to say goodbye to their sick relatives. I think it is a tough and traumatic experience not being able to say a warm goodbye,” he said in the Annual television program in which you review the year that ends.
When asked if he was afraid of being infected with the virus, the 74-year-old king replied: “Lately, it has become more evident, it has been getting closer and closer. That is not what you want.”
Rather than relying on rules and sanctions, Sweden appeals to citizen responsibility and civic duty, and the authorities limit themselves to issuing recommendations. There is no punishment for those who ignore them.
The Swedish government has never imposed a total confinement or the mandatory use of the mask, and bars and restaurants have remained open.
However, a few days ago schools in Stockholm, the capital, were asked to move as soon as possible to distance teaching their students aged between 13 and 15 for the first time. The measure was announced in response to the increase in infections.
A week earlier, distance education for those over 16 had been decided throughout the country.
And on Monday, new recommendations arrived at the national level on social distance for the Christmas period, replacing those issued by regional authorities.
The advice for Swedes is to gather no more than eight people, do it outside when possible, and avoid traveling by train or bus.
The prohibition of public meetings of more than eight people remains in force, which affects events such as concerts, sports competitions and demonstrations.
The controversy of “voluntary” measures
The chief epidemiologist of the Swedish State, Anders Tegnell, said in November that the country’s strategy combined legal measures and voluntary actions.
He told the BBC: “We think it’s really the best” in the Swedish context.
According to an official report published this week, the national strategy failed to protect the elderly in residences, something for which the government has accepted its responsibility.
More than 90% of COVID-related deaths have occurred among those over 70 years of age and almost half in nursing homes and dependents, says the government.
Tegnell said that the body he runs, the Swedish Public Health Agency, is not responsible for running such centers and that all stakeholders must help improve the situation to ensure that the elderly do not catch it.
For Tegnell, Sweden has improved in the protection of the elderly, and said that no country has been totally successful in this task.
The Swedish epidemiologist recalled in an interview on Sverige Radio on Wednesday that even Germany was now being hit hard.
Sweden has also been noted for being one of the countries with the highest number of cases per capita and accumulates more deaths than all the rest of the Nordic states combined.
This has provoked criticism from neighbors such as Norway, Denmark and Finland, who complain that lax Swedish politics is putting the effectiveness of their own measures at risk.
On Tuesday, the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, said he had the feeling that many experts had underestimated the second wave.
“I think many in the profession did not see such a wave coming,” he told the newspaper. Aftonbladet.
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