Sweden is still holding out against a lockdown, even as its death toll surges past 1,300
04/17/2020 // Ralph Flores // Views

Sweden’s Public Health Agency reported a surge in new cases late Thursday after 613 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the country’s total caseload to 12,540. The agency also reported 130 deaths, the second-highest daily death toll after Wednesday’s 170, taking Sweden’s total from 1,203 to 1,333.

Despite the figures, officials continue to resist calls to place the country under lockdown. In an interview with Financial Times, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lovin said that the country has taken "very harsh and exceptional measures" to deal with coronavirus, even as schools and restaurants remain open, saying that the government wants to make "the right decisions at the right time."

In a separate interview, Foreign Affairs Minster Ann Linde also defended the country’s holdout.

"We don’t believe in a lockdown if it’s not going to be sustainable over time. We don’t believe we can lock people in their houses for several months and have a high degree of people following it," she added.

"But it’s a myth that it’s business as usual. It’s not business as usual."

Government urges people to be responsible as they practice social distancing

While the latest figures were lower than those from Wednesday, health authorities noted the latter also included backlogs from the Easter weekend and that the most recent numbers indicate a genuine upswing in new cases.

In particular, the number of coronavirus cases in Sweden continues to rise, as other countries – most of which have a cordon sanitaire in place – are now seeing their infection rates slow down. According to the country’s public health agency, nearly half of Sweden’s cases are in the Stockholm region, which reported 214 new cases.


Sweden’s approach to the pandemic is an outlier compared to other countries in Europe. The country’s highly controversial strategy revolves around the idea that dealing with the contagion will be "a marathon, not a sprint."

Lovin added that, in place of restrictions, the government has set forth clear guidance on how to combat the coronavirus. She also stressed that these recommendations demanded a "common responsibility" from the public. Currently, public gatherings of 50 people are still allowed, and bars and restaurants remain open, as well as primary schools. Authorities believe that closing schools and kindergartens will be detrimental; the closures could force essential personnel such as doctors and nurses to stay home or draft at-risk grandparents to do childcare. (Related: WHO: Europe now the EPICENTER of the coronavirus pandemic.)

"It’s very important that we have sustainability in the decisions we take so that we don’t have a fatigue in the population. There’s huge support for the way we have been doing it so far. There is almost no controversy between the political parties," said Lovin.

The approach also wagers on the high level of trust that the public has with government agencies. Local health officials say that the public has been acting responsibly to minimize the spread of infection. On Easter weekend, Lovin noted that travel in Sweden was 90 percent lower than in previous years after the government advised against traveling to see relatives.

Scientists call for radical measures as deaths mount

On Tuesday, a group of doctors, virologists and researchers published an op-ed criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic. The group accused the Public Health Agency of failing to roll out a proper strategy, which has caused the number of deaths to rise way above that of other Nordic countries.

"One would like to imagine that Sweden, too, has had a forward-looking strategy, especially since our country has always had a different way of facing the spread of the infection than the rest of the world," they wrote in local broadsheet Dagens Nyheter.

In response, Linde said that while the scientists were "entitled to their opinion," there was no point in comparing Sweden’s strategy with that of its neighbors, given that each country has its own challenges when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus and is at different stages of the pandemic.

"We are all fighting the same fight but with different means."

Pandemic.news has more on the global coronavirus pandemic.

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