In Sweden they think the worst is over, so normal life returns

The virus outbreak hit Sweden hard in the spring, and the country has significantly more deaths than its neighbours. But the Swedish RIVM thinks the worst is over. And so the Swedes continue with the line they’ve been plotting from the very beginning.

In Stockholm the weather is busier on the streets, in shops and public transport. It’s a big difference from a few months ago when the Swedish capital was the epicentre of the outbreak and the streets were empty. Many Stockholmers then worked from home, as the government advised.

Now the morning rush hour is back on the road, with more commuters now opting for cycling instead of public transport. “It’s great to see some people again and to be back at a real workplace,” says independent entrepreneur Carl-Johan Örndahl.

Little interference from the state, Sweden is responsible

Sweden stands out with its own approach. From the beginning, a conscious choice was made for a strategy that people had to be able to maintain for a long time. Based on personal responsibility and few interventions. There was the confidence that people would adhere to the corona-related rules of conduct.

Many Swedes appreciate that approach of the government, notes correspondent Rolien Créton in Stockholm:

At the same time, the goal was to protect the elderly. But the virus sneaked into nursing homes unnoticed, causing many residents to die in old people’s homes. “This pandemic exposes the weak links of a society,” says Emma Frans, epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute. “In Sweden, that weak link is care for the elderly, in which little has been invested in recent years.”

The visiting ban in old people’s homes was introduced too late in Sweden. In addition, the virus was spread via temporary workers who commuted from one old people’s home to another. “So we have failed in that respect,” says Frans.

The choice to intervene as little as possible with coronavirus rules and laws is wise, according to Frans: “In other countries there are increasing conflicts between the authorities that are trying to stop the infection, and the population that wants to work and take up daily life again. That is problematic. I think it is important that in Sweden there is mutual trust between the population and the authorities.”

‘During this pandemic there’s no time for whining’

“Of course there was a lot of nervousness in the beginning”, he says. “Some parents didn’t dare send their children to school.” That was hard for the teachers, who not only had the responsibility for the children who came to school, but at the same time had to give lessons online to those who stayed at home. Gustavsson: “We kept calling the parents who kept their children at home. And now all the children are going back to school.”

A number of changes have been introduced at school to limit the infection as much as possible. For example, playtime and lunch are spread over the day as much as possible to keep the groups small. The classrooms and toilets are also disinfected several times a day. Everyone contributes. “I disinfect toilets myself. During this pandemic there is no time for nagging”, says Gustavsson.