If we think back to the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sweden was one of the countries that the rest of the world was looking at for guidance in terms of combatting this deadly virus. The country was one of the only in the world that never imposed a lockdown during the first wave of the pandemic, however, now Sweden is implementing stricter measures as a second wave of infections is taking a toll on its citizens and hospitals.
On Monday, the Swedish government announced that public gatherings of more than eight people are not allowed. This is a major shift for a country that has previously been relying on voluntary measures and guidance throughout this pandemic. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven announced the new gathering limits this week; previously the limit stated that gatherings had to be 50 people or less.
“This is the new norm for the entire society. Don’t go to gyms, don’t go to libraries, don’t host dinners. Cancel it all.”
The ban will begin being enforced on November 24th and is set to last for at least four weeks. Previously, Sweden was viewed as a vision of aspiration for other European countries that began seeing major new spikes in cases starting this summer. Many European countries of smaller sizes were able to recover from the first wave of infections more easily due to the smaller population densities, however, as those restrictions began to loosen, cases began to rise everywhere again, and now Sweden is no different.
Most schools, businesses, bars, restaurants, and cafes, however, will be remaining open, despite some major international criticism from neighboring European countries who claim that those businesses and establishments are what led to the rise in cases in the first place. Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnall defended the new strategy by claiming it was striking a “balance between public safety and protecting the economy.”
However, as we’ve seen in America, when you put protecting the economy within the plan to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, you’re likely to keep a multitude of establishments open that will lead to an increase in foot traffic and new cases. Schools, bars, and restaurants have proven to be amazing breeding grounds for this virus, as they all promote close contact and cross contamination.
Government data has shown that the number of daily new confirmed cases started to rise again in Sweden in early October, and thus hospitalizations began increasing two to three weeks later. Daily deaths also hit double digits in early November, which is fairly shocking for the country.
Sweden recorded almost 6,000 new daily Covid-19 cases last week alone, bringing its total number of confirmed infections up to 177,355 and counting; for context Sweden has around 10 million residents. The death rate per capita in Sweden is also several times higher than any of its neighbors, however, countries like Denmark, Finland, and Norway have roughly half the population of Sweden each.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.