In Sweden, Infections and Calls for a Lockdown Are Rising
Sweden has been an outlier within the world pandemic: It eschewed lockdowns and saved eating places, bars, faculties, film theaters and gymnasiums largely open. And whereas dying charges had been excessive in comparison with its Nordic neighbors, they had been akin 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 deliver the nation’s response considerably extra in keeping with the remainder of Europe. They embody drastic cutbacks on the dimensions of public gatherings and a few faculty closures.
But 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 issues 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 stated at a information convention on Tuesday.
“We are far beyond 100 percent of capacity in intensive care. We are approaching almost double the number of available spaces,” he stated.
Since the pandemic started, a debate has raged each inside and out of doors of Sweden over find out how to curb the virus. As different international locations went into lockdown within the spring, Sweden stayed open out of concern that retaining everybody holed up at house would have long-term detrimental results on youngsters and adults and will result in despair, suicide, postponed well being care and job losses.
On Monday, the Swedish prime minister, Stefan Lofven, stated 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 stated that he hoped that the unfold of immunity within the inhabitants would assist Sweden get via the autumn with a low degree of instances.
“I think that most in the profession did not see a second wave coming,” Mr. Lofven stated in an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Mr. Tegnell’s company is 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 position.
During the primary wave, deaths had been excessive, particularly among the many aged. On Tuesday, a particular fee concluded in an preliminary 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.
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 it’s neighbor Finland, with a inhabitants about half of Sweden’s, has 31,110 instances, lower than 10 p.c of Sweden’s.
Sweden’s whole dying toll reached 7,667 as of Tuesday. The nation now has 74 deaths per 100,000 instances, lower than the United Kingdom, 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. “We all fear the coming weeks. We do not have enough personnel to deal with this.”
Nurses have left their jobs in massive numbers because the starting of the pandemic.
“Around 3,000 nurses have quit their jobs during the first 10 months of the year,” stated Sineva Ribeiro, the president of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals. “Those who remained have been working very, very hard.”
And now the federal government is coming underneath criticism for not doing sufficient.
“I was hoping this grave situation would change things, but yesterday they opened the ski lifts in Sweden,” stated Fredrik Elgh, a professor of scientific virology at Umea University and a well known critic right here of the official coronavirus response. “Taking such actions into account, I don’t think the government is taking the firm action I had hoped for.”
Mr. Lofven’s authorities, in an try and cease the unfold of the virus, issued new suggestions on the finish of November that banned gatherings of greater than eight individuals.
While faculties for kids underneath 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 individuals to restrict Christmas gatherings to a most of eight individuals.
But officers are asking, not ordering.
Under Swedish regulation, the federal government isn’t allowed to power individuals to remain house or wonderful 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.
Restaurants, espresso outlets and bars in Sweden proceed to be open.
Face masks aren’t beneficial in Sweden as a result of the Public Health Authority says there isn’t sufficient scientific proof that they work.
So, on Monday afternoon the “Chic 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 pals having fun with a cup of espresso. Asked why she wasn’t carrying a face masks, she replied as a result of it’s non-compulsory.
“The Public Health Authority hasn’t said that we should wear masks in public places,” she stated.
The authorities is drafting an emergency regulation that might give it powers to order lockdowns and shut down companies when the virus is spreading.
Still critics are calling for harsher measures.
“We need a few weeks of lockdown to get the numbers down,” stated Tove Fall, a professor of molecular epidemiology at Uppsala University close to Stockholm. “Other countries are taking much higher precautions at lower transmission levels.”
Some are upset that face masks aren’t utilized in Sweden.
“We are the only democracy in the world that does not recommend the use of face masks. There are more than 170 countries in the world that recommend using masks. But here they are saying there is not enough science behind that. That is nonsense,” stated Mr. Elgh, the virology professor.
But others nonetheless argue that the virus menace is overblown.
“Each death is sad but it must be put in proportion. About 85 percent of those who died in Sweden also had another disease, and many of those who died this spring would likely have died later this year,” Johnny Ludvigsson, a pediatrician at Linkoping University stated in an interview with the newspaper Aftonbladet.
“I think we are being overly dramatic about the number of deaths during the corona pandemic,” he stated. “Compare that with what will happen when we get increased mortality among younger people due to increased heart attacks, late diagnosis of cancer or increased levels of depression that can end in suicide.”