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Covid-19 on Swedish Flag

Sweden Quickly Moves To Enforce New Lockdown Measures As Covid-19 Cases Rise 

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. 

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“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.” 

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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.

Covid Outbreak Virus

European Countries Learning From Sweden As Covid-19 Outbreaks Increase 

European countries are currently seeing massive surges of new Covid-19 cases, and some are opting to take a page from Sweden’s book of coronavirus response efforts to better protect their own countries. Sweden’s been relying more on voluntary compliance than coercion when it comes to getting their citizens to abide by the health and safety procedures put into play, and while that may work for them, we’ve also seen how relying on citizens can go the opposite way.

France is currently averaging 12,000 new cases a day while Spain just passed the 700,000 case mark. The UK is also seeing a massive increase in cases and citizens are beginning to speak out against their governments lack of change in policy to help combat this. Dorit Nitzan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) regional emergency director for Europe recently spoke with the media about shifting policies and moving more towards Sweden’s approach. 

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“Sweden’s focus on sustainability over time, citizen engagement, and voluntary compliance was interesting because this is the time we all have to learn to live with the virus.” 

Nitzan went on to explain how her and her team know there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to combating the coronavirus, however, we all could afford to start learning from one another’s success’. Unlike many countries throughout the world Sweden closed all of its colleges and universities for individuals over the age of 16, but kept schools for younger students open. The country banned gatherings of more than 50, and urged individuals over the age of 70 to remain isolated for as long as possible. 

Otherwise, the country’s 10 million residents were simply asked to respect these procedures and remain diligent about social distancing and wearing a mask, most of which have obliged. However, other parts of the world that have relied on voluntary compliance more than actual enforcement has also seen a massive increase in cases as a result. 

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Even in Sweden itself, back in May the country recorded the most Covid-19 deaths per capita in Europe. The country has experienced around 5,900 deaths, half of which reportedly occurred in care homes and other assisted-living facilities. While Sweden has been able to remain relatively stagnant in terms of new cases, recently they’ve been experiencing little surges of new cases that are causing international experts to be skeptical of their voluntary programs. 

In the last two weeks Sweden has seen around 37 new cases per 100,000 residents. Experts say it’s still too early for countries to adopt other procedures for their own residents because of how vastly different every country actually is. Antoine Flahault is a professor of public health and director of the Institute for Global Health and the University of Geneva, who recently spoke with the media about the widely criticized approach Sweden took to fight the virus. 

“Many people think that because Sweden did not lock down, the government did nothing. But it managed to make citizens understand and participate in the fight against the virus, without coercion, mandatory laws or regulations. The effect was not very different.”

While Sweden’s approach may not be as effective in other parts of the country, there are aspects to it that other European countries are willing to adopt in order to protect their own citizens. The main goal for everyone, however, is universal; to curve the spread and eliminate the virus as much as possible.

Switzerland

Top 5 Greenest Countries In The World

Climate change is obviously the largest issue regarding the health of our planet and its rapid deterioration. In the same regard, it’s just as obvious that the only way to reverse even a small percentage of the extensive damage that has already been done would be through serious systematic change brought on by our world leaders. In certain areas of the world, government bodies have finally begun listening to the outcries of the millions of individuals who are fighting for the survival of our planet and all its inhabitants, so much so that they’ve even seen a real shift in their natural environments. Here are some of the greenest countries on the planet currently, maybe we all can learn a thing or two from them. 

Iceland has always taken conserving its environment very seriously, even before climate change became as extreme of a threat as it is today. According to “Conserve Energy Future” a company that’s all about the many ways in which our planet can be more sustainable, Iceland was graded a 93.5 out of 100 on the Environmental Performance Index. They have such a high score due to the fact that they use geothermal landscapes to produce electricity and heat, as well as the fact that they’ve implemented multiple laws and policies that prevent their local waters/the ocean surrounding them from becoming polluted. 

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Switzerland is close behind Iceland on the Environmental Protection Index, with a solid score of 89.1. Switzerland has taken on a multitude of “green projects” within the past decade, such as creating a whole new national park known as Alpine Park, as a means of making the whole country much more sustainable. Multiple bans on industrial and infrastructural expansion into farmland has also allowed the country to maintain clean air and preserve multiple bodies of water. 

Costa Rica scored 86.4 on the Index and if you’ve ever taken a vacation there, you’re sure to know why; there’s a reason those beaches remain so clean and pristine. Costa Rica citizens all use renewable energy for power as a means of reducing their individual carbon footprints, and meeting their goal of being the first carbon neutral country in the world. 

Sweden is up next with a score of 86 exactly. Sweden has a goal of eradicating all fossil fuel use by the end of this year as a way of reducing pollution, and so far they’re on the right track. They’ve also adopted multiple forms of renewable energy to help power their citizens homes and cities, and have passed multiple laws that work to protect the ecosystems/wildlife habitats within the country.

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Norway is one of the few European countries that makes the cut with an index score of 81.1. In Norway residential and commercial facilities are not allowed to release any greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by law. Instead, like many other countries on this list, they use renewable energy resources, and also have a goal of being completely carbon neutral by 2030. Norwegian culture has also always emphasized the importance and sanctity of our natural world. Children from a young age are literally taught in school to protect the planet at all costs as it’s the only home we all have. 

As we look down this top 5 list of the greenest countries in our world, according to Conserve Energy Future, there’s a lot of obvious similarities. They all use renewable energy sources to a certain degree, and have adopted an overall attitude as a country to prioritize the environment over anything else. Within the past ten years especially, the planet has seen an intense increase in natural disaster, endangered/extinct species, and general planetary destruction. These countries were able to unite together and create policies that are leading them all on a path of becoming completely carbon neutral. 

However, it won’t matter unless the rest of the world catches up and joins them in the fight to save our planet, so make sure that when it comes to climate change you’re not blaming your friends for using a plastic straw, and instead voting for a greener future when it comes times to hit the polls. Regardless of who you support we can all agree that we’d like to see Earth survive the next 100 years, so reflect that the next time you have a say in your countries policies. 

Tennis

What It’s Like To Be A Low-Ranked Tennis Player On The Tour

Marina Yudanov is the 536th best tennis player in the world. It is an unremarkable statistic that hides a remarkable story. Back at the start of 2017, Yudanov, 29, was earning more than £30,000 a year as an engineer for Volvo in her native Sweden.

She was financially secure and settled, physically at least, in the buzzing second city of Gothenburg. But something was missing. That was when she threw herself into the cut-throat world of a hustling lower-level tennis pro, in search of what might have been.

She funds this testing journey herself, giving everything on court and scrimping everywhere off it. Mammoth road trips over expensive plane tickets, cheap rental flats instead of hotels, sometimes sharing a twin room with the player she is facing the next day.

“Nothing of what I say is me whining or complaining, I really am not,” Yudanov says. “I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to do this but it is very difficult.” Yudanov was once a teenage national champion, but a promising junior career flamed out as the pressures of academia, adolescence and sporting excellence bore down on her.

“I had been in the top juniors of my age, ranked 250 in the world at 16. But all those things were too much for me,” she says. “I was hanging out with people who were not good for me, smoking, drinking and seeing older men. I thought, ‘I hate this’ and I walked away when I was 18.”

For the next six years, Yudanov didn’t pick up a racquet. But tennis crept back into her life, first as a practice partner for a friend, then as a tentative competitor in national tournaments. Then, aged 27, she handed in her notice. “I had got myself somewhere with a good salary, but every single day I just wanted to get out on court and compete,” she adds.

“I was getting up at 5am to go and do some kind of fitness before work and directly after work I would go and play tennis. It would fill my existence. People at work were like ‘oh that is great, follow your dream’. In the back of their head they thought: ‘What the hell does this girl think she is doing, quitting her job to travel the world and lose money playing tennis?’”

And losing money, certainly at the start, is pretty much inevitable. As an unranked player, as Yudanov was in the summer of 2017, you are a freelance bounty-hunter. Starting a tennis career from scratch involves searching out tournaments with tiny pots of prize money and ranking points, which in turn give you a chance to enter the next tier of slightly larger events and slowly inch your way up the sport’s greasy pole.

Yudanov began with 20,000 euros of family savings, approximately £18,000, to help her cover the costs of travel, accommodation and equipment as she started out. Every decision in her career is an investment. A wager that she will collect enough points and prize money at an individual event to offset her costs.

The major purchase she would make to help her career if she came into some unexpected money would be a campervan or motorhome to travel to tournaments in. “There are a lot of mental sums in deciding the itinerary,” Yudanov says.

“You check and see if the prize money and the points on offer and if your ranking is going to be good enough to get you in. If there are very few tournaments on a particular week globally, then you are going to have to travel further to find one because the fields will be stronger.

“If I go long haul, can I afford the investment of a plane ticket over there? Can I be there a few days in advance to cope with the jet lag or is that too expensive? Is there another player who might make the journey as well who I could share costs with and practice with? It is a gamble every time.”

Yudanov knows her rewards from tennis won’t be measured in millions of dollars. The bottom line for her is that initial family investment in a last grab at a disappearing dream. She has stemmed the rapid losses she incurred as she found her way on the professional circuit, but is down to her last 5,000 euros, about £4,400.

“I don’t have 10 years ahead of me to keep playing,” she says. “How much time do I have left to keep doing this and how long can I justify playing full time? My end goal is to make a living from competitive tennis. If I get there I want to play forever. Because tennis is where I show everything that I am.”

Climate Change

Greta Thunberg, 16 year old Climate Activist, Testifies Before Congress

After arriving in America from Sweden on a boat instead of a plane in order to reduce carbon emissions, Greta Thunberg, a teenage environmental activist from Sweden, testified before a Senate climate crisis task force on Tuesday, September 17th, to draw attention to the threat posed by climate change and urge lawmakers to act. Thunberg, who is known for her direct and blunt style of speaking, appeared alongside youth climate activists Jamie Margolin, Vic Barrett and Benji Backer this week. Yesterday, after introducing herself to the committee and receiving praise from lawmakers for her strength and determination, Thunberg tried to shift the focus to the science, submitting the 2018 global warming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as her testimony and saying “I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action.”

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Thunberg went on to chastise lawmakers, telling them “I know you are trying but just not hard enough. Sorry,” prompting laughter and applause from supporters. Although Congress is sharply divided by partisanship, sympathetic members of Congress such as Representative Ed Markey encouraged Thunberg and her peers, telling her that she represents the future of political leadership and that voices like hers are essential in combating political inaction on climate change. Though she received support from representatives like Markey, who is a sponsor of the Green New Deal which aims to take radical action on climate change, other representatives were less sympathetic. Representative Garret Graves from Lousianna, for instance, argued that the U.S. is not to blame for climate change because America doesn’t produce most of the world’s carbon emissions, prompting a rebuttal from Thunberg in which she stressed the importance of American leadership in this field.

The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects

Thunberg’s trip to the Americas coincides with a planned international strike from school in protest of climate change inaction on Friday, which is likely to be among the largest environmental protests in history. The strike comes just a few days before the UN is set to meet for the Climate Action Summit, during which representatives from signatories of the 2015 Paris Climate Accord are expected to articulate new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During the strike, Thunberg will lead a demonstration at Foley Square in New York City, after which she will lead a rally and march to Battery Park. The absences of public school students who wish to protest will be excused in New York City, and students from cities around the world are expected to participate in parallel protests, with additional demonstrations, rallies, and marches planned. The issue of climate change is of particular importance to young people, who belong to a generation which will experience the majority of its effects, and who do not remember a world in which climate change was not one of the top political concerns around the globe.

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The nature of Thunberg’s trip to the United States on a speedboat is notable for its uniqueness and for how it demonstrates Thunberg’s personal commitment on climate change. The sailing yacht, called the Malizia II, was equipped with solar panels and underwater turbines in order to allow for a carbon-neutral trip. The journey took 15 days, and the conditions onboard were not particularly luxurious, as the boat lacked a kitchen, toilet, and shower. Nevertheless, Thunberg and her crew enjoyed the experience, and in an interview with Democracy Now! she described seeing dolphins and other wildlife as well as the stars in the night sky free of light pollution. The boat’s sails were decorated with the phrase “Unite behind the science,” and other environmentalist messages and carried the flags of Germany, Monaco, Sweden, and the European Union. Thunberg currently does not know how long she’ll stay in the Americas and doesn’t know what mode of transportation she will use to get back home, but is likely to employ another carbon-neutral or low-carbon mode of transport.