Coronavirus: Sweden reflects on ‘soft touch’ response as cases rise

Sweden’s death rate per capita several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell during a digital news conference. Photograph: Henrik Montgomery/EPA

Swedish state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell during a digital news conference. Photograph: Henrik Montgomery/EPA

 

Swedish Covid-19 cases continued to rise on Tuesday as many welcomed the toughest measures yet imposed to curb the spread of the disease that has claimed more than 6,000 lives in the Nordic country.

Sweden, whose soft-touch pandemic response has garnered world-wide attention, registered 15,084 new coronavirus cases for the latest four-day period on Tuesday. It was a small decrease compared with the 15,779 cases recorded during the corresponding period last week.

“We’re still in a very serious situation,” said Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell. Sweden also registered 61 deaths since Friday, taking the overall toll to 6,225.

On Monday prime minister Stefan Lofven said Swedes were not following coronavirus recommendations as well as in the spring, and said that all public gatherings would be limited to eight people, down from a previous upper limit of 300.

The decision was welcomed on the streets of Stockholm.

“I think that the stricter restrictions you impose and the more bans you have [the better],” said Stockholm resident Ann-Britt Nilsson. “And above all – and I have strong opinions about this – close the restaurants,” she said.

Restaurants, schools and businesses are still open for the most part, as they have been throughout the pandemic.

“We don’t believe in a total lockdown,” Mr Lofven said on Monday. “We believe that the measures we have taken ... are appropriate.”

Sweden’s death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours but lower than some larger European countries such as Spain.

Italian spike

Italy’s health ministry announced on Tuesday that it had registered 32,191 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, up from 27,354 the day before. The ministry also reported 731 Covid 19-related deaths, up from 504 the previous day and the highest daily toll since April 3rd, when the country was in full national lockdown.

Italy was the first western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 46,464 Covid-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February – the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain’s – and 1.24 million cases. The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy’s financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Tuesday, reporting 8,448 new cases, up from 4,128 on Monday.

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the government would impose tighter measures to fight coronavirus and impose partial lockdowns on weekends across the country. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Mr Erdogan also said all schools would remain closed until the year-end and all restaurants would be allowed to open for deliveries only.