While the UK has been placed under virtual lockdown, Swedes are enjoying life with the fewest restrictive measures so they can go where they want and do what they want without the threat of police action. Schools for children up to 16 remain open and commuter trains continue to be jam-packed with workers on a daily basis. Stockholm argues life must go on despite the worrying increases in the death toll as the global pandemic continues to spread.
Johan Carlson, head of Sweden’s public health agency, last week said the country “cannot take draconian measures that have a limited impact on the epidemic but knock out the functions of society”.
Sweden is hoping a slow spread of the disease will ensure that its health system does not become overwhelmed in the coming months.
Mr Carlson said the 90,000 people who die annually in Sweden in Sweden would “increase significantly” if the healthcare system does eventually fail.
According to the latest figures, Sweden currently has 2,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus with just 40 deaths related to the disease.
It comes as a stark contrast to Italy, which has recorded some 69,000 cases and 6,820 deaths, despite operating a strict lockdown policy.
Anders Tengel, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, said: “The future still looks manageable.”
He said schools should remain open to provide childcare for healthcare workers, and claimed young people are less susceptible to becoming infected.
Until last week, thousands of people flocked to the country’s ski resorts while nightlife spots remains open.
But now the authorities have banned public gatherings of more than 500 people, closed universities and advised workers to stay home if possible.
Officials have allowed restaurants and bars to remain open but they can only service customers at tables rather than the bar.
However, healthcare experts have criticised Stockholm for taking a risk with public health while little is known about coronavirus.
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Joacim Rocklov, an epidemiologist at Umea University, told the Financial Times: “I do not see why Sweden would be so different from other countries. It is a huge experiment.
“We have no idea – it could work out. But it could also go crazily in the wrong direction.”
Prime minister Stefan Lofven has called on people to do their utmost to stop the spread of the virus.
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In a televised address on Sunday, he said: “There are few crucial moments in life when you have to make sacrifices, not only for your own sake but also in order to take responsibility for people around you.
“That moment is now. That day is here. And that duty belongs to everyone.”
But even with its new measures, Sweden looks far more relaxed than its Nordic neighbours.
Denmark, Finland and Finland have closed schools, sealed their borders as part of wide-ranging restrictions.
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