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 53 (December 27, 2020 – January 3, 2021).
8,727 people have now died with Covid-19 in Sweden; an increase of 448 reported deaths compared to last week. These numbers are roughly on par with the autumn’s highest weekly record, which could mean that the death toll has now reached a plateau, but the New Year weekend has probably delayed the reporting of data. If we look at Altmejd’s forecast, Sweden is now at just over 80 deaths a day, even though it’s difficult to be certain of the numbers.
Almost all data is now delayed. The Swedish Public Health Agency argues that this is due to the Christmas holiday making people reluctant to visit hospitals, and that Christmas leave for staff creates a backlog in reporting. This, together with reduced opening hours for testing, means that the week’s low number of tests performed (232,000) and the number of infected (37,000) cannot be interpreted as a reduction in the number of infections. Especially not when you look at occupancy in Sweden’s hospitals, which continues to increase.
News from the past week has otherwise mostly consisted of political scandals. In one week, four of Sweden’s highest-ranking politicians and officials have been found to be breaking the recommendations they themselves have set.
- Director General of The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, Dan Eliasson, traveled to the Canary Islands for a two-week Christmas vacation in mid-December, despite the recommendation that everyone should avoid ”unnecessary travel”. The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency is an authority with the brief to coordinate crisis management and crisis information. Eliasson believes that his trip to the Canaries was ”necessary” because he was going to celebrate Christmas with his daughter who lives there. He landed back in Sweden on Saturday.
- Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was photographed visiting shopping malls in the runup to Christmas, along with his security detail. One of the visits took place just two days after Löfven urged the public to avoid unnecessary visits to shops. Löfven didn’t deny the visits and said he was shopping for spare parts for a razor and Christmas presents for his wife among other errands. In an Instagram post, he said that in retrospect, he realizes that he could have made the Christmas gift purchase online.
- Minister for Justice Morgan Johansson was seen shopping during the very post-Christmas sales the government had asked the business community to cancel. His shopping trip took place at a mall in Lund. ”A delayed Christmas present”, was the explanation from the Justice Minister, admitting it was ”careless”.
- Minister of Finance Magdalena Andersson was in the Swedish ski resort of Sälen over Christmas and was photographed renting ski boots for cross-country skiing on Sunday. Sunday is a ”changeover day” for ski resorts, when a greater number of people than usual visit equipment rental locations to pick up or drop off their skis.
- The opposition Moderate Party’s foreign policy spokesman, Hans Wallmark, has also traveled to the Canary Islands, something he himself revealed and apologized for on Facebook, only to then delete the post. Wallmark happened to meet civil contingencies chief Eliasson during his trip to the Canaries, because their children know each other.
Politicians going against recommendations have whipped up strong feelings among the general public and healthcare professionals, and articles about the events have received intense reactions during the week. Opposition parties have stayed silent, but in the media, political commentators have written attention-grabbing articles about how difficult it will be for leaders to credibly demand that the public follow advice that the government itself overlooked. The strongest criticism has been reserved for Dan Eliasson, but the latest is that he may keep his job.
Plenty of infringements against the recommendations were also seen among the public during the week. Even though the general advice seems to have been obeyed over the Christmas period, it’s been neglected to a greater extent during New Year celebrations. In the largest cities, thousands of people crowded together on New Year’s Eve and calls to the emergency services were much like a normal New Year’s Eve. Healthcare professionals have once again expressed resentment over people’s irresponsibility, as the pressure on the health service is still severe. The Chair of the Healthcare Association in the region of Dalarna appealed to tourists to avoid skiing trips to the popular resort Sälen, as local healthcare services are unable to handle more cases.
The hours during which face masks are recommended on public transport have now been published. This week, the Swedish Public Health Agency published guidelines that everyone from upper secondary school age and upwards is recommended to wear a mask between 7am and 9am and 4pm through 6pm on weekdays. The advice applies to public transport across the whole country, even though overcrowding is mostly a problem in the bigger cities.
Vaccine. A Swedish man suffering with multiple illnesses died the day after he was vaccinated against Covid-19. The death is not suspected to have anything to do with the vaccination, even if a report must be carried out according to current procedures. Nevertheless, the vaccine was linked to the death in several Swedish headlines during the week.
The Swedish Public Health Agency has now clarified their plan for the next phase of vaccinations. Vaccination is going according to plan, and those over 70 are set to start being vaccinated in February together with other risk groups. In other countries, intensive care staff are being vaccinated first, something that more and more people in Sweden think is a more significant priority. Meanwhile, many of the world’s governments are trying their hardest to get their populations vaccinated as quickly as possible, including measures such as creating registers of citizens who do not get vaccinated. In Sweden, the proportion of people who want to get vaccinated is increasing, now reaching 71 percent, according to state broadcaster SVT. During the week, a doctor who raged against vaccine skeptics garnered particular attention, as did this Instagram picture:
– What do we want? – A vaccine!
– When do we want it? – As soon as possible!
– The vaccine is ready! – That was a bit too quick, we don’t want to take it.
This week’s news in brief:
- A total of twelve cases of the new, mutated (and more contagious) coronavirus have been found in Sweden. All cases have been from inbound travel and so far there are no indications of societal spread of new virus strains.
- Temporary pandemic legislation has now been sent to Sweden’s Council on Legislation ahead of a parliamentary vote this week. If the law is passed, it can take effect as early as Sunday 10 January, after which the law will be able to force, for example, restaurants and shopping centers to close, as well as hand out fines to citizens. The legislation has been met with criticism from the business community.
- A record low was seen in deaths as a result of road traffic accidents during 2020, which is linked to the pandemic. A total of 190 people died, a number not seen since the 1950s.
- Victims of the coronavirus were honored by all of Sweden’s 13 cathedrals on New Year’s Eve. At 6pm they rang their bells for ten minutes. The last time this happened was after the 2004 tsunami.
- At 3pm on Christmas Eve in Sweden, it’s tradition for families to gather in front of the TV to watch Disney’s Donald Duck. This year though, Donald broke viewer records as Swedes celebrated Christmas spread over an unusually large number of households. Not since 1997 have so many people watched Donald’s festive antics.
Even Greta Thunberg (who turned 18 this week) is irritated by Dan Eliasson’s travel, but most likely for other reasons than just the virus:
That’s all for this week, let me know in the comments if you think there’s something missing!
Would you like to help me make more time to write here?
Then you might like to consider supporting my work:
This article is free of charge thanks to the help of people who contribute financially every month to make this journalism open and accessible.
This article is written under the CC-BY license, and is free to share and republish as long as you link back here.