What the virologist Christian Drosten is for the Federal Republic is Anders Tegnell for the Swedes: The top epidemiologist in Stockholm is currently the most sought-after man in the country, omnipresent on all channels. Opinions about him and his recommendations differ.
While some trust the special corona strategy of their government and their currently most important expert, others wonder why Sweden is taking a completely different line than its neighbors and EU partners.
In fact, Sweden is taking a special route in the Corona crisis: Kindergartens and primary schools up to the ninth grade are still open, unlike high schools and universities. The same applies to restaurants, pubs and cafes, which have recently only been able to serve their guests at the table. The ski areas are also open further, the national borders are tight for non-EU citizens, but not for Europeans. And through Stockholm, buses filled with commuters or crowded.
This makes Sweden basically the last EU country without extremely tough measures against Covid-19. The contrast to the strict approach of the Scandinavian neighbors Denmark and Norway and also that in Germany could hardly be greater. One wonders: is that okay?
One builds on the voluntariness of the citizens
If you believe the state epidemiologist Tegnell, then the Swedish strategy will work. “We are convinced that this is the right way to go,” he told SVT shortly before the weekend. In the Swedish healthcare system, people rely heavily on trust, voluntariness and finding their own solutions, he said.
Tegnell, the government of Prime Minister Stefan LOfven and the health authorities largely rely on the common sense of the population, on recommendations to people over 70 to avoid close contacts, and on the trust in political decision-makers typical of the Swedes.
The goals in the fight against the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus are the same as elsewhere: the spread of the virus should be slowed down so that not too many people become seriously ill at the same time and the health systems are overwhelmed. The consequences for business and citizens should also be absorbed.
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“We cannot regulate and prohibit everything by law”
Events of this size are now over. LOfven again appealed to the Swedish prudence on Friday. “We all have to assume our responsibility as individuals,” he said – adding: “We cannot regulate and prohibit everything by law.”
This permissive line is not only popular. In an open letter, several high-ranking Swedish scientists asked the authorities to change course in the middle of the week. The government must severely limit the contact between people in the country and test a lot more, it said. It is also a good idea to close schools and restaurants until you know more about the situation.
“We are one of the countries in the world that have implemented the weakest measures,” complained the molecular biologist Sten Linnarsson from the Stockholm Karolinska Institute in the newspaper “Dagens Nyheter”. Ultimately, he and the other signatories to the letter only wanted Sweden to follow international recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) – just like other countries.
Nobody knows the right way in the fight against Corona. “Nobody knows what’s right and what’s wrong right now,” says sociologist Fredrik Liljeros from the University of Stockholm. He sees a reason for the Swedish special path in the fact that scientists and authorities in Sweden have been working together for a long time in research on the spread of viruses.
“This ensures that we believe that the Swedish strategy is more scientifically based than anywhere else,” he told the German Press Agency. He suspected that Sweden’s virologists were therefore more confident in the matter.
Concern in Stockholm: more and more dead
So far there are more than 3000 confirmed cases of infection in Sweden. Over 90 people have died of Covid-19, including about two thirds in Stockholm. There, the number of deaths has been increasing for days, from Tuesday to Wednesday it almost doubled from 19 to 37 in 24 hours.
The capital region then sounded much more alarmed than Tegnell, who always describes the situation at his daily press conferences in a cool, Scandinavian manner. It sounded very different in Stockholm. “Five days ago, I called the Covid 19 epidemic a storm,” said Stockholm Health Director BjOrn Eriksson. “Now we can say: The storm is here.”
Stable situation or emergency? There are now at least 60 deaths in Stockholm. And the newspaper “Aftonbladet” wants to know one thing above all from Tegnell and the authorities: “Is the Corona storm over us now or not?”