On Monday, Sweden’s former state epidemiologist and current advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO), Johan Giesecke, encouraged Swedes to go out and enjoy the spring sun.
“Bring a friend and walk a metre apart. Don’t hug your neighbour. Bring a thermos and sit on a park bench. It’s bad for your health to sit at home too,” Giesecke told broadcaster SVT’s morning show.
Right or wrong, Sweden does not seem to have a worse virus problem than its neighbors, according to the numbers of declared cases.
While most of Europe is locked down in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Sweden is keeping primary schools, restaurants and bars open and encouraging people to go outside for a nip of air.
The country’s soft approach, in stark contrast to the urgent tone elsewhere, has sparked heated debate whether Sweden is doing the right thing.
“We cannot allow the human desperation in Wuhan and Bergamo to be repeated in Sweden. That would be a gamble that violates society’s most fundamental principle: that every person has an inherent value,” the editor-in-chief of Sweden’s biggest newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, wrote on Sunday, calling for either tougher measures or more widespread Coronavirus testing.
But Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, in a televised speech on Sunday, urged people to “take responsibility” and follow the government’s recommendations.
On Monday, Sweden reported 2,016 confirmed cases of the new Coronavirus, while Norway and Denmark — which each have around half the population of Sweden — reported 2,371 and 1,450 cases, respectively.
All Scandinavian countries are however believed to have a big number of unknown cases as testing is only being done on patients with severe symptoms.