Sweden Reaffirms Softer Strategy With COVID-19 Despite Increasing Criticism



The Swedish government reiterated on Tuesday its commitment to a softer strategy against the COVID-19 pandemic, despite registering mortality much higher than that of other Nordic countries and the greater number of criticisms received in recent days.

"It is a long-term vision. To say that everything runs as if nothing in Sweden is a myth, there has been no confinement but there have been many restrictions," Foreign Minister Ann said at a press conference in Stockholm with foreign media. Linde.

Although no Nordic country has confined its population, the rest closed much of public life for more than a month, while Sweden opted for many recommendations to protect risk groups and appeal to individual responsibility, introducing some restrictions on Progressive form.

Thus, institutes and universities have been closed, visits to nursing homes and concentrations of more than 50 people have been prohibited, following the criteria of the health authorities, in accordance with the tradition of autonomy of public agencies in Sweden.

"Basically we have the same strategy as the rest: trying to reduce contagion and the number of deaths, that health care is not saturated and minimize the effects on the economy and employment," said Linde, who speaks of "a marathon and not a sprint "against the virus.

Sweden has a COVID-19 death rate of 39.26 per 100,000 population, four times more than Denmark, eight times Finland and nine times Norway, although far from the hardest hit countries such as Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy, according to the count of the American Johns Hopkins university

"It is not a good idea to compare different countries," Linde said, referring to the fact that they may be at different stages of the epidemic and to the way of counting the dead (Sweden does count the deceased in nursing homes, unlike other countries).

ELDERLY RESIDENCES, LACK OF MATERIAL AND PRIVATIZATIONS

Linde highlighted that the transmission and death curve has been reduced for weeks and that health care has not collapsed (intensive care units have maintained an available capacity of 20 to 40%), although he admitted the failure to prevent transmission in nursing homes .

70% of the slightly more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in Sweden have occurred in nursing homes and the average age of the deceased is 82 years, Linde said, in addition to pointing out that the improvement of protection and training of the staff have contributed to reducing cases.

According to a study by public television SVT, more than half of the complaints sent in asylums to the Health Inspection Service in March and April refer to the lack of material for the staff.

A survey of those responsible for asylums in the Stockholm and Sörmland regions, two of the most affected, points instead to asymptomatic staff and those who went to work with symptoms as the main cause.

The late prohibition of visits to nursing homes (April 1) and the high degree of privatization of residences, as well as precarious employment, have also been pointed out as possible causes, indirectly pointing to the previous right-wing Executive (2006-2014) and to the Stockholm municipal government.

In the worst phase of the epidemic, while hospitals in the capital were asking for more staff to care for COVID-19 patients, private clinics continued to perform hip, knee or cosmetic operations, according to conservative "Svenska Dagbladet."

Cases such as that of the Uppsala University Hospital (center), with more than 300 infected employees, as it has been known today, have provoked criticism from the unions for the lack of protective material for personnel since the start of the pandemic.

"That will be a great topic for discussion after the crisis. My party is not in favor of that policy. Many of the staff have temporary contracts and that affects the quality of care," the Minister of Economy said today in the same appearance. , the social democrat Magdalena Andersson.

Social Democrats and environmentalists have ruled in the minority since 2014; in the current legislature, thanks to a pact with the center-right.

CRITICISMS OF THE OPPOSITION AND EXPERTS

Criticism of the government and the Public Health Agency (FI) have been mounting in recent weeks, beginning with an article in "Dagens Nyheter", the leading newspaper, published in late April by about twenty scientists from Swedish universities who they asked for a change of strategy.

"That is the main weakness of the Swedish strategy: we have become a global phenomenon, the country on everyone's lips. Backtracking and reconsidering the decision may seem like mistakes are recognized before everyone," he wrote two days ago. this liberal newspaper in an editorial.

The Moderate Party (conservative) has demanded a commission that already analyzes the actions of the authorities, although the Government maintains that it is better to wait until the crisis is overcome.

Critics have also recently joined the former chief epidemiologist of the IF, Annika Linde, who has denounced the lack of coordination between the authorities and not having opted for greater restrictions from the beginning.

"I doubt very much that we could have done much more", defended Linde's successor and visible head of the Swedish strategy, Anders Tegnell, although he also pointed out that the "quality" of care in nursing homes has been a matter of discussion for years.

FLOCK AND TEST IMMUNITY

Many of the criticisms against Sweden, especially from abroad, indicate that they have wanted to bet on herd immunity, although the authorities have always denied it and only admit that it would be an effect, not an objective in itself.

Calculations by the FI and by Tom Britton, a mathematician at Stockholm University, indicated that 40% immunity could be achieved in Stockholm in mid-June.

The first results of an IF study carried out in 9 regions in early April and released a few days ago, however, indicate that only 7.3% of the inhabitants of the capital had developed antibodies.

Britton spoke of "tragedy" and invalidated her forecast; Tegnell, on the other hand, assured that the numbers do not differ much from what they expected and that they are not "very uneasy", in addition to estimating that the current immunity in the capital could be around 20%.

One of the objectives set by the Swedish authorities is to increase the number of COVID-19 tests to 100,000 weekly, but the data for the last week recorded less than 29,000, 4,000 less than the previous week, which the regional authorities explain due to problems. logistics.

Despite the increase in criticism, polls show that the Government has higher levels of support than the previous year, as do other authorities: 77% of Swedes maintain great confidence in the FI, according to a study released yesterday by the Civil Emergency Agency ..

Anxo Lamela

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