Swedish children continued to pour through the gates into their schools and kindergartens yesterday as the country stood increasingly alone in Europe in its approach to tackling the coronavirus.
Shops and restaurants also remained open, with parks and recreational areas packed with groups enjoying the spring sunshine.
Despite a surge in Covid-19 patients and growing dissent among epidemiological experts, the Swedish government’s medical experts are standing by their decision not to follow almost all other EU nations in organising economic and social lockdowns.
Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said the different approach reflected the independence traditionally enjoyed by government agencies, such as the Public Health Agency of Sweden, and the reluctance of politicians to override expert advice.
He conceded that if infection rates do start to soar and Sweden ends up like Italy or Spain, he would face criticism.
Much of life in Sweden remains unchanged. The government has banned only events with more than 500 participants, issuing a recommendation that those who visit pubs and restaurants should be seated at a table rather than mingling at a bar, and that people taking public transport should “think carefully” about whether it’s necessary.
Those who fall ill with coronavirus-like symptoms need only wait two days after they feel well again before returning to work or school.
The advice has not changed despite a surge of cases in Stockholm in recent days that led the city’s health chief Bjorn Eriksson to call for any help he could get handling the influx of coronavirus patients.
“The storm is here,” Mr Eriksson said, announcing 18 patients had died in the region in the past 24 hours, doubling its death tally in a single day.
More than 2,000 eminent Swedish researchers and university professors have sent an open letter to the government calling for tougher measures.
For now it is too early to say how the pandemic will play out, with 66 deaths recorded up to Wednesday.
Sweden has 2,806 confirmed cases of infection, which at 281 cases per million people puts it below Denmark and Norway, and just ahead of the UK. (© Daily Telegraph, London)