COVID surge in Sweden, 'It's going to get worse' says PM

As the number daily infections hit new highs, Sweden announces stricter regulations, but won't consider full lockdown.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,


As Sweden recorded its highest ever daily increase in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven told reporters, “It’s going to get worse.”

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Löfven announced tougher restrictions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Business Insider reports, but continued to insist that a full lockdown was not on the horizon. Sweden’s constitution does not actually allow for a lockdown to be imposed, but Löfven insisted that it would in any case not be necessary if citizens showed the same level of adherence to the guidelines that they did during the virus’ “first wave,” when the government largely confined itself to recommendations rather than restrictions.

“Do your duty and take responsibility for stopping the spread of the virus,” Löfven said. “In the spring we saw large-scale compliance. It was enough to have recommendations to get most people to keep their distance and cancel their plans. Now there is less compliance.”

Sweden has seen a surge in Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks, and has already imposed harsher restrictions in five of the country’s 21 regions, including the capital, Stockholm. Now, however, the restrictions will apply to the entire country. Public gatherings are to be limited to a maximum of eight people (down from 50) – this will apply to concerts, sports events, and performances, as well as restaurants, which can remain open but must ensure that no more than eight people dine at a single table.

“We can’t regulate every social gathering,” Löfven said, but he added that he wanted to send “a clear and sharp signal to every person in our country as to what applies in the future. Don’t go to the gym, don’t go to the library, don’t have dinner out, don’t have parties – cancel!”

The rules come into effect next week, and are to last for four weeks. Schools and workplaces will remain open throughout, and “private gatherings” are not to be regulated at this stage.

Sweden received a great deal of international attention earlier this year, when its relaxed approach to restricting social interaction and economic activity contrasted sharply with what most of the rest of the developed world was doing. Its infection rate, caseload, and death toll have been consistently higher than in neighboring Scandinavian countries, but less than some places in Europe where nationwide lockdowns were imposed. Comparisons are always complicated, however, as Sweden is much more sparsely populated than much of Europe. In addition, its large immigrant and second-generation migrant population (mainly Muslims) is almost never referred to when its approach to the pandemic is discussed, and the impact of dense Muslim neighborhoods on the country’s morbidity and mortality statistics is probably unknown, maybe even to the Swedish government itself.

All the same, until relatively recently, Swedish officials had been quite confident about their prospects this fall and winter, estimating that their policy of continuing to allow social interaction both in the workplace and in the wider economy would mean that they would be less susceptible to a “second wave,” presumably relying on a level of acquired immunity among the general population. Now it seems that they were overly optimistic, as Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, admitted on November 12.

Sweden now has more coronavirus cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths than Norway, Finland, or Denmark, relative to its population size. It has reported 177,355 coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic, and 6,164 deaths. Many of these were caused by insufficiently protecting the elderly in care homes, a failing the government has apologized for and promised to rectify.

“This is a testing time,” Prime Minister Löfven told journalists this week. “It is about your and my choices every day, every hour, every moment that will determine how we manage this. So make the right choice for yourself, for society, and for Sweden.”