Sweden’s more relaxed approach to the COVID-19 crisis is the ‘right one’, says public health agency headn 50 people ski resorts will remain open and after-ski parties closed

**This article is continuously updated with the latest developments.

The Director-General of Sweden’s public health agency, Johan Carlson, told Swedish Television in an interview on Sunday (29 March) that the country’s approach to coronavirus was the right one, adding that the authorities “remain pretty confident it is the best way to stop the disease from spreading. “At the end of the day, it did not matter how many infections we have,” said Carlson. “That is a cumbersome experiment, locking up people in for four to five months,” he added.

In Sweden, schools will remain open and the movement of people has not been restricted. While gatherings of more than 50 people are banned, but shops and restaurants operate normally, people over 70 are advised to stay at home.

On Monday afternoon (30 March), the number of infections in Sweden had risen to 4028, which is 132 more than the day before, which the number of deaths has now reached 146.

In his interview, Mr Carlson stayed adamant about his Agency’s strategy. ”In society, there are already enough moratoriums, such as banning the use of drugs. Despite that, the problem has not vanished. People have to have their own understanding and knowledge. That is the way we have acted against infections,” he concluded.

**As of Monday afternoon (30 March), the number of infections in Sweden had risen to 4028 with 146 deaths.**

Tougher measures?

After discussions about whether Stockholm should be isolated from the rest of the country seemed to gain traction in Sweden on Thursday (26 March), the government now seems ready to impose tougher measures as it announced that gatherings of more than 50 people would not be allowed. As there are also growing concerns regarding the availability of protective equipment as of Friday (27 March), Sweden and Finland have started to plan a consortium to produce respirators in six or seven weeks from now.

On Thursday (26 March), discussions about whether Stockholm should be isolated from the rest of the country seemed to gain traction in Sweden. Thus far, the country has had a lenient approach to coronavirus compared to the rest of Europe. According to Swedish media, preliminary talks about the Stockholm lockdown have taken place between authorities and politicians both on a local and national level.

Sweden continues to pursue a different approach to tackle the coronavirus situation compared to other Nordic and EU countries. While ski resorts will remain open during the Easter break, after-ski parties will be cancelled and ski lifts must not be too crowded.

Late Sunday (22 March) evening the Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Löfven faced the nation in a five-minute televised speech, where he warned the country of the tough times ahead, but failed to deliver any new concrete actions.

Sweden is the only country where primary schools remain open and public gatherings of a maximum of 500 people are allowed.

A politician giving a speech on TV is a rare sight in Sweden and it has a strong symbolic meaning. A Swedish flag behind him, Mr Löfven appealed to the citizens to help each other, to obey instructions and asked them to be ready for restrictions on a quick notice.

Sweden’s different approach

Sweden continues to pursue a different approach to tackle the coronavirus situation compared to other Nordic and EU countries.

Even if the matter is taken seriously the country believes more in requests and recommendations rather than orders and forced measures.

Citizens are just asked to act responsibly, keep a healthy distance to one another and work from home if possible.

On Saturday (21 March) the number of infections in Sweden was 1746, deaths have been reported 20.

In Stockholm, people are enjoying the spring sun in the parks and children are playing outside. Restaurants and cafes are opening up their terraces.

Gatherings of a maximum of 499 people are still allowed. Curfews have not even been suggested.

Borders continue to be open to EU citizens and primary schools have continued their term normally. High school and universities switched to distant learning, though.

According to authorities keeping schools open is less harmful in this situation than closing them. Children may alienate from society and drift into criminal activities.

In Sweden, health authorities – not politicians – seem to have the final say on how to deal with the crisis.

Presently the authorities are following a gradual, step-by-step approach. That might change since the number of intensive care beds is smaller than in many other European countries.

It’s been estimated that in the current rate those units would be full in Stockholm by Wednesday or Thursday next week. Sweden has already been mentioned as a possible “new Italy”.

The Swedish company Absolut, famous for its high-end vodka brand, has started contributing to the production of alcohol-based hand sanitiser. The liquid comes in need since some hospitals are even reporting thefts.

Sweden is also making preparations to face the peak in the number of infections expected during the weekend.

The military announced yesterday that it is setting up a field hospital near the town of Uppsala. Especially Stockholm is waiting for a surge, infections have already appeared in retirement homes and other institutions.

The number of cases in the country on Thursday is 1423, third of them in Stockholm. So far 11 people have died.

The way ski resorts are handling the situation raises a lot of eyebrows. Resorts such as Åre, Sälen and Vemdalen remain open.

In Sälen, for instance, there are some 25,000 people on holiday. After Ski parties are restricted to 499 participants, one below the limit. Also in neighbouring Finland, ski resorts are still open, while in Norway they are closed.

On Thursday (19 March), Sweden finally decided to stop non-essential travel to country for 30 days. The entry ban applies primarily to foreign citizens attempting to enter Sweden from a country outside the EEA or from Switzerland.

Swedish citizens and people who are resident in Sweden will be able to return. Also allowed entry are those with important grounds – diplomats, people in need of international protection and people carrying out essential functions such as health care.

The Swedish government mulls to present additional aid up to SEK 300 billion (around 28 billion) to ease the financial ramifications of the virus crisis to be voted in parliament on Thursday (19 March).

Behind the decision was an agreement between the Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal Party and the Green Party.

The government is reaching out to employers’ in various ways. Wage costs can be halved and the government will cover a larger share of the costs by increasing the subsidy level. The employee may receive more than 90% of their wage.

It is also proposed that the government would cover the entire cost of all sick pay during April and May. Self-employed persons would be compensated in that they can receive standardised sick pay for days 1–14.

Companies could also delay payment of employers’ social security contributions, preliminary tax on salaries and value added tax normally reported monthly or quarterly. Meanwhile, companies that have paid into their tax account for January to March can receive repayment of the tax.

Company payment respite covers tax payments for three months and would be granted for up to 12 months.

Focus on most severe cases

On Monday (16 March), the number of coronavirus cases in Sweden is 992. So far, six people have died due to virus.

On Wednesday (11 March), the country’s health officials say it has reached ‘epidemic-status’ with it being impossible to trace the origins of some infections, meaning the virus has entered a new stage.

Swedish authorities are now focusing on the most severe cases in need of immediate medical care.

Those with milder symptoms will no longer be tested and will be asked to merely stay home.

As of Thursday (12 March), the government will be banning all public events with more than 500 people, including concerts, sporting events, fairs and conferences.

It will also be temporarily scrapping the first unpaid day of sick leave, as people leaving from work due to sickness will receive sick pay from the moment their absence begins.

Last weekend’s Melodifestivalen, where Sweden named its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, was seen as reckless and an example of commercial interests ‘trumping’ over public safety.

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