Sweden plans to cut Stockholm off from the rest of the country following a spike of coronavirus deaths in the city.
The country reported 66 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, an increase of 60 percent from the 41 reported the same time on Wednesday and with more than half of the total in the capital.
Meanwhile, cases increased by 534 from 2,272 to 2,806 – a 23 percent increase in line with the exponential growth curve seen in other European countries, meaning cases have roughly doubled every three days.
Sweden has so far resisted following other European countries – including neighboring countries Norway and Denmark – to full lockdowns, but the latest figures have led politicians to reconsider.
Sweden plans to quarantine Stockholm after coronavirus deaths have increased by more than 60% across the country at night, with the worst hit capital (pictured, soldiers are preparing an emergency hospital in the city )
There is a fear that people from Stockholm will spread the virus to the countryside if they visit holiday homes during the break, so it may be necessary to be affected by a travel ban (pictured, a military hospital in the capital)
Sweden has resisted following much of Europe to full lockdown, but mood now seems to be changing as the number of deaths starts to increase (data correct as of March 26)
Stockholm has caused 41 of the coronavirus deaths in Sweden to date, with an increase of 18 nights – the largest of the outbreak to date.
The capital also has the highest concentration of cases anywhere in the country, with 1,216 infected people.
Now there are concerns that people living in the city can spread it to previously untouched parts of the countryside while visiting holiday homes during the Easter holidays, Aftonbladet reports.
As a result, ministers are drawing up plans to isolate Stockholm from the rest of the country to try to stem the spread.
However, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell advised that these are only plans and emphasized ‘we are not there yet’.
It marks a dramatic shift from where Sweden was just 24 hours ago – with schools and bars open and people being encouraged to step outside for fresh air.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven urged people to “take responsibility” and follow government recommendations in a televised speech on Sunday.
These include working from home if you can, staying at home if you feel sick, exercising with social distance, and staying at home if you belong to a risk group or are older than 70 years.
Gatherings of more than 500 people are prohibited – compared to more than two people in Britain and Germany – and the government has advised high schools and universities to close their facilities and provide online classes.
Coronavirus cases in Sweden increased by 534 from 2,272 to 2,806 – an increase of 23 percent, which is in line with the exponential growth curve in other European countries
The incidence of coronavirus infections in the UK is 8,078 with 422 deaths.
In Spain, 47,610 people are infected and about 3,434 deaths.
While 33,954 people are infected and 171 dead in Germany.
On Tuesday, the Swedish government announced that restaurants and bars should only provide table service to avoid crowds, but stopped actually closing them.
The health authorities also urged people to reconsider the trips to visit relatives at Easter.
But for many, life continues almost normally.
Bars and restaurants were packed on weekends, and Stockholm’s city buses are packed during rush hours, despite social distance recommendations.
Neighboring Norway, on the other hand, rolled out the “most intrusive measures” in peacetime two weeks ago, including banning sports and cultural events and closing schools and businesses.
The Swedish parliament has so far simply accelerated a bill that allows the closure of primary and kindergartens – if deemed necessary.
However, in line with the rest with the rest of the European Union, Sweden has closed its borders to unnecessary travel.
Grilled by the media over their seemingly relaxed response to the pandemic, Swedish politicians reply that the government will be led by experts from the country’s Public Health Agency.
The agency has not yet called for more stringent measures, arguing that the elderly should stay at home, not children.
Swedes have so far taken a relaxed stance on the coronavirus, with open bars and encouraging people to go outside and get some fresh air
People sit in an open-air restaurant on a square in central Stockholm, even as coronavirus deaths increase in the capital
“As soon as the Public Health Service asks the government for a decision, we will do it as soon as possible,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren said with her fingers earlier this month.
But not everyone shares the government’s trust in the service, and some accuse it of endangering lives.
This has led to a stream of vitriol on social media, targeting the agency and main spokesperson, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
The number of spiteful comments became so overwhelming that the agency’s director, Johan Carlson, felt compelled to defend Tegnell and said, “I think it’s almost unworthy of what he’s subjected to.”
The growing pressure has not changed the authorities’ view that draconian measures are not effective enough to justify their impact on society.
On Monday, Johan Giesecke, the former Swedish epidemiologist and current advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), encouraged Sweden to go out and enjoy the spring sun.
“Take a friend and walk a meter apart. Don’t hug your neighbor. Take a thermos and sit on a bench. It’s also bad for your health to sit at home, ‘Giesecke told the morning show of broadcaster SVT.
Whether right or wrong, Sweden doesn’t seem to have a bigger virus problem than its neighbors, according to the number of cases reported.
Today, Sweden reported 2,299 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, while Norway and Denmark – each of which has about half the Swedish population – reported 2,566 and 1,577 cases, respectively.
However, it is believed that all Scandinavian countries have a large number of unknown cases, as testing is only done on patients with severe symptoms.