Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, I’ve been summarizing on a weekly basis the most important and talked about happenings from a Swedish perspective. This is week 41 (5-11 october).
(This is originally posted in Swedish)
5,894 people have now died with Covid-19 in Sweden, a decrease in total fatalities of 1 compared with last week. This isn’t to say there’s been a resurrection, rather during the week, a region made a downwards revision by 12 of their total deaths. It can be more accurately said, then, that 11 fatalities were reported this week, which is a similar number to last week. The total number of Swedish ICU cases has gone largely unchanged, however the number of infections are rising even though the number of hospitalizations remain at a stable level.
Locally, the situation is worse. Stockholm, for example, continues to be impacted more seriously than other regions, which Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell thinks is strange. The spread of infection should be greater in larger regions which haven’t previously been as hard hit, such as Skåne and Västra Götaland. Meanwhile, the pattern looks similar in other parts of the world; the hardest hit cities are also facing a difficult second wave. However, individual districts that suffered more during the spring are now being somewhat spared. Instead, central Stockholm is seeing greater spread of infection, with the capital’s satellite towns seeing low transmission; something that, according to researchers, may be because more people in the inner city are testing themselves.
Worst affected by the spread of infection is Uppsala, which this week reported its highest numbers so far. This level hasn’t been seen since the beginning of June, when more testing was made available. Uppsala is also seeing an increase in the number of hospital admissions and has therefore increased the number of beds available.
Authorities have also focused on Uppsala when they again reiterated that young people between 20 and 30 years old are the driving force behind transmissions, usually as a result of parties and hockey training. As Uppsala County was preparing to implement an increased state of readiness, and buses were brought in from neighboring regions to reduce overcrowding, a student union in the city was planning a party for 400 guests. The Minister of Higher Education expressed dismay, while Uppsala’s public health director called it ”incomprehensibly bad form”. The student union subsequently shelved its plans and instead received praise from the minister and director.
Most troubling is increased transmission in nursing homes across Sweden. After homes reopened to visitors last week, regions across the country are now reporting that infections among the oldest and most vulnerable are on the increase. In Skåne, demands are being made for clearer guidelines regarding the reopening, yet they also state that only after a week can a connection be drawn between reopening for visits and the spread of infection. In the Swedish Public Health Agency’s latest weekly report, infections in nursing homes decreased between weeks 39 and 40.
Tests on municipal wastewater have revealed that the spread of infection in Stockholm is approaching the same levels as the city had in May, according to researchers at KTH who have regularly analyzed samples from three different treatment plants. If this is the case, it would prove that the rise in cases in Stockholm is not only as a result of more people having access to tests. The virus can be detected via feces before symptoms appear, making it a good indicator of how widespread it is. Similar tests have been completed in Uppsala, allowing researchers to detect an increase in infections weeks before it translated into the statistics. Researchers now want politicians to show greater interest in this method of testing.
But how conclusive is the method? When one newspaper dug deeper, the researchers themselves admitted to several uncertainties. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell believes that the method must be able to produce more definitive results before it can be used as a forecast, and that the Public Health Agency has other, better measurement tools in the meantime.
Speaking of increased infection rates, the actions of several politicians have been brought into question this week. First up was Christian Democrat party leader Ebba Busch after video emerged of her dancing close to friends, the day after the Prime Minister appealed to the public to refrain from attending home parties with multiple guests in confined spaces. Another high-ranking Christian Democrat, Ella Bohlin, who serves as regional administrator for healthcare development in Stockholm, was also at the same party. Both have since said they regret attending.
The Swedish democrat party leader, Jimmie Åkesson, also chose to defy recommendations this week as he attended a 50th birthday party where he was seen embracing both younger and older people.
There won’t be an increase in limits to the number of members in an audience this week. Many had expected the government to announce a relaxation of the restrictions at their meeting on Thursday, but transmission among the public is currently too high, the government said. The culture section of Expressen newspaper asked why theaters should bear a larger share of the responsibility for infections, saying that shops, public transport and flights all get away with larger numbers.
At the same time, some of Sweden’s trendiest nightclubs around the Stureplan area of Stockholm have reopened. Perhaps partly because they’ve long been at odds with their insurance company, who don’t want to pay out for nightclub closures in March, saying they believe that nightclubs could have been open. So Sturecompagniet has simply repurposed its dancefloors into restaurants.
On Friday, Stockholm venue Spy Bar reopened with the owners promising table service and social distancing, which ended up going so-so:
Spy bar och Uppsala stadsteater i går kväll. Känns väl inte riktigt som att samma regler gäller för alla.Publicerat av Niklas Hjulström Lördag 10 oktober 2020
But it’s not just nightclubs that are finding ways around the rules, as Folkoperan (the ”People’s Opera”) plans to revamp its theatre to a cabaret with dining and drinking, so as to increase its audience limit from 50 to over 200 guests.
Trust for the Swedish government continues to fall, as almost every weekly poll has shown. This might not be as strange as it seems, as numbers were extremely high earlier in the year. On Wednesday, the University of Gothenburg presented an opinion poll from the spring that showed record figures, both for Sweden’s public service broadcaster (SVT recorded its highest ever numbers, with public trust at over 80%), but also for the government. ”I don’t believe I’ll ever see another increase in confidence in the government as large,” said political scientist Henrik Ekengren Oskarsson, so it’s from a high water mark that the government is now sinking. Confidence is also falling for Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch and Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson, even if their decreases have not been over a similarly long period.
This week’s news in brief:
- The Swedish Public Health Agency’s press conferences will continue for at least another year. This was announced as the authority also said that pandemic measures in Sweden will remain in place for at least another year. This week, press conference number 100 was held. The press conferences, which began as a daily occurrence, have been the ”campfire” of our time, stated a professor.
- Hundreds of people suffering from long-term sickness with Covid-19 may lose their state sickness benefit, as the law does not allow for exceptions from a 6-month period of social insurance for groups of patients with a particular illness, judging cases only on an individual basis. Now a newly-started Covid association is working to introduce a group exception for people on long-term sick leave with Covid-19.
- A new study from mathematician Tom Britton shows that the number of deaths by the end of the year could be 1,000 if we ignore restrictions. If everyone instead complies faithfully, deaths could total as few as 100.
- No more trick or treat? The Swedish Public Health Agency is wary of Halloween shenanigans, and hopes families with children can limit trick or treat visits to those they already have contact with at school. Also this week, the authority advised against large family parties for Christmas.
- Three distinguished international researchers, including Sweden’s Martin Kuldorff, made a well-publicized appeal – the ’Barrington Declaration’ – challenging world leaders to stop lockdowns and instead pursue herd immunity for the healthy while isolating risk groups. Much backlash ensued, with one Yale researcher calling the suggestion ”grotesque”. The WHO has since advised against lockdown as a primary option for countries.
- Sweden ignored the European Commission’s call to close primary schools. A Dagens Nyheter reader wondered why in a widely-noticed letter to the paper, after Anders Tegnell previously said that EU cooperation had broken down, as all other countries went in their own direction. The Swedish Public Health Agency declined to comment.
Finally, in the northern Swedish town of Piteå, volunteers from a church group set up a temporary drive-thru selling portions of the local favorite dish to raise money for Corona victims.
Succé för palt drive-in i Piteå. 200 paltar såldes på en halvtimmePublicerat av SVT Nyheter Norrbotten Fredag 9 oktober 2020
That’s all for this week. If you think something’s missing, leave a comment!
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