Swedish flag with coronavirus data
Swedish flag with coronavirus dataiStock

Recent polls have indicated that support among Swedes for their government’s policy of recommending rather than enforcing social distancing regulations is waning, as morbidity and mortality rates rise.

According to a poll conducted last week, 44% of respondents now believe the government is not doing enough to fight the epidemic, up from 31% last month. Public confidence in the government’s ability to deal effectively with the pandemic has dropped, from 55% in October to 42% last week. Furthermore, over 80% of respondents said that they are “somewhat worried” or “very worried” that the country’s healthcare system will not be able to meet the growing demands placed upon it by the rise in the number of cases.

Sweden reported 6,485 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, and 33 deaths associated with the coronavirus, The Guardian notes.

Sweden’s constitution does not allow for a sweeping nationwide lockdown to be imposed, but certain measures have already been taken and have been enhanced in recent weeks. While shops, bars, and restaurants remain open, alcohol may only be sold until ten o’clock at night. Public gatherings are limited to eight people, and now high schools have been ordered to transition to distance learning until the winter holiday break.

Face masks, however, are only recommended within hospitals, and social distancing is encouraged rather than mandated, as are hygiene measures, seen by many medical professionals as at least as if not more important than the wearing of masks.

In light of the continued rise in infection rates, the Swedish government is now advising all children to stay home from school if anyone in the household is a confirmed virus carrier; previously, this advice was given only to older teenagers and adults, who are also encouraged to self-isolate for seven days in such cases.

Sweden has the 24th highest per capita rates of coronavirus mortality, in part due to a huge outbreak of the disease in the country’s residential and old-age homes earlier this year. “We clearly have a wide spread of infection, which really hasn’t stopped and which we all need to help get under control,” said Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist, noting that the increase in new cases appears to be affecting all age groups.

Sweden has 666 ICU beds with ventilators, with over 460 already in use (around half of which are being used for coronavirus patients).

Nonetheless, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven continues to insist that his government “does not believe in a total lockdown,” and that “the measures we have taken … are appropriate.”