Sweden’s State Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell Stays True to His Line. Image: Frankie Fouganthin/CC BY-SA-4.0
Government tightens recommendations, but continues to rely on reason and solidarity instead of bans
No one could accuse the Swedish health authority of scaremongering and activism so far. But since hospitals are once again filled with covid patients, their admonitions have become more urgent. And in five regions, covering more than half of the population, rules are already in place that are suspiciously being followed "Lockdown Light" sound – only voluntarily. "We must show the same solidarity as we did in the spring", warns state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.
More people than ever before are getting tested in Sweden, with more than 160 at last count.000 per week out of 10.3 million inhabitants. But the positive results are also as high as never before. As of Wednesday, there were 3396 new Covid 19 diagnoses. Most people are curing themselves at home, but an increasing number of patients need treatment in hospital (most recently, according to a press conference, 391 inpatients plus 59 in intensive care).
The number of people who died with it is still limited, but in Sweden the spring is still well remembered. Nobody would like to have this situation again. It wasn’t until July that the ICUs had really emptied out. And many hospitals could not begin to make up for the operations that had to be postponed in the spring until after the summer. According to Expressen, departments at Danderyd Hospital in Stockholm have already been closed because the number of covid patients is increasing and staff are needed.
The new recommendations strongly advise against going into any interior spaces beyond your own four walls
In order to prevent a recurrence of the conditions from the spring, the new regional recommendations are now in force in five regions, which call for stronger restrictions. These include the three metropolitan regions of Stockholm, Vastra Gotaland with Goteborg and Skåne with Malmo, but also Uppsala and Ostergotland. They are initially in effect for three weeks, with the exception of Uppsala, where they were first imposed and have now been extended to four weeks. This decision is made by the health authorities after consultation with the regions, which are also responsible for local health care. There is no fixed upper limit, but the situation is assessed on an individual basis. The six regions have a combined population of about 6.5 million, which means that more than half of Sweden is already in this aggravated state.
The new recommendations strongly advise against going indoors in any place other than one’s own four walls – i.e., stores, shopping malls, gyms, museums or libraries. One may of course continue to buy food or go to the pharmacy.
Conferences, concerts, performances and sports competitions are also discouraged, especially where participants from all over the country gather. Only children under 15 are exempt.
It is best to meet in person and close only those with whom you live – and in any case not to organize or visit parties.
Some of the regions also advise against using public transport. Others waive this point. The infection control doctor of Stockholm said in the press conference that in her region it is difficult to get along without the public transport – but if you are flexible, you can go at a time when you can keep your distance. There is no obligation to wear mouth-nose protection in these measures.
This is not a ban on the operation of the mentioned stores and facilities. Every company is required to provide a safe environment, and every customer/visitor is required to judge for themselves whether it is safe there and how important this visit/purchase is to them. However, restaurants can be closed if they do not comply with infection control regulations. Some establishments have already announced the temporary ban.
Adherence to the 50-person limit
In Sweden, the 50-person limit for public events has been in effect since the end of March. Recently, however, the government decided to make two changes after consulting with the health authority: Establishments with dance floors will no longer be considered as organizers "of public dance events" now also under the 50-person rule, from which restaurants with seating are exempt. There have been too many pictures of nightclubs with crowds. Sporting events, theaters or concerts, on the other hand, should again be allowed up to 300 people, as long as people can sit there and keep their distance. This was to create a solution that would also get culture and clubs through the winter and eliminate injustices against the restaurant business.
However, the six regions of Skåne, Stockholm, Vastra Gotaland, Ostergotland, Uppsala and Blekinge have already decided that, in view of the situation, they will stick to the 50-person ceiling – anything else would send out the wrong signal. It is to be expected that in the near future further regions will intensify the decreases.
How does it help Sweden that so many there have already had Covid-19 and should be immune for at least a few months?? Tegnell points out that the development in Sweden has now been slower than in other countries and that the mortality rate is still low. In fact, Sweden is currently one of Europe’s "lower third" in terms of case numbers. Norway, Finland and Estonia are much better off, but have also sealed themselves off weeks ago or introduced strict quarantine rules for entry.
In the spring, the Swedes managed to turn the tide of an already advanced spread of the virus through voluntary disciplined behavior. Anders Tegnell and his colleagues are now hoping for a similar effect to avoid a repeat of spring conditions or worse. At the end of April, up to 558 Covid 19 patients were in intensive care units, which is more than the country normally has capacity for. There had been massive rerouting to accommodate everyone. Sweden was at times one of the countries with the most death traps per capita, and there is still debate about whether everyone received adequate care at the time. The first partial report of the government-appointed Corona Commission is expected at the end of November.
In the spring, however, the situation was new, the daily figures shocking, and the Swedes, like everyone else, hoped that this would be temporary – although Tegnell and his colleagues expected a new increase in the fall and always said that the decreases had to be sustainable in the long term. Like others, the Swedes have become tired, no longer want to put things off, and no longer want or are allowed to work at home. The stricter local recommendations are therefore also a signal to the employers to let this be practiced again more often. It remains to be seen whether it is possible once again to turn the tide with an appeal to personal reason and solidarity, but without petty bans, bub money and everyday mask coercion.