The “lockdown light” will determine the November of the German citizens: Chancellor Angela Merkel announced numerous new measures yesterday evening to bring the rising number of corona infections under control. By the end of November, the catering industry must largely close, as well as leisure facilities such as theaters, museums and fitness studios. Only members of two households are allowed to meet.
Corona numbers are also growing in Sweden
Also in Sweden, which has handled the pandemic differently from most other European countries since the beginning, the numbers continue to rise sharply. On Wednesday, 2128 new infections were reported within 24 hours – according to SVT, the highest daily value since the pandemic began. The number of infections is rising particularly in the region around the student town of Uppsala and in Skåne in southern Sweden. The hospitals in Stockholm are also filling up with corona patients again.
Nevertheless, Sweden remains true to its special path in autumn and is now relying on recommendations instead of restrictions. “Should” instead of “Must”. But the key changes. Stricter recommendations were made on Thursday for the hotspots of Uppsala, the fourth largest city in the country, and Skåne, a province in southern Sweden, but also for the regions Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Östergötland.
Lockdown-like recommendations should now take effect in hotspots
By November 17, the residents of Skåne should avoid public transport and public places such as shopping centers, shops and gyms as much as possible. Meetings with others, events or group sports should also be avoided. Exceptions are important purchases, doctor visits, or exercise for children born in 2005 or after. In addition, contact with people outside of one’s own household should be avoided. In the student city of Uppsala, people should adhere to similar guidelines until November 3rd, as will soon be in Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Östergötland.
“These recommendations are equivalent to a lockdown, with the difference that in Germany non-compliance can threaten penalties or fines and that is not the case in Sweden,” says political scientist Tobias Etzold from the Forum for Northern European Politics to FOCUS Online.
Stricter measures and extensions to other regions are conceivable
Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has now said: “This is a tough autumn and it will likely get worse before it’s over,” he said.
Accordingly, the government is currently advising on extending the recommendations to other parts of the country. Depending on the situation, stricter measures could also be taken, reported the Sweden correspondent for “Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland”. But Tegnell did not say what it could be.
Sweden remains true to pandemic course: “Lockdowns are not a long-term solution”
In Germany, local measures were first taken and public life in the hotspots Berchtesgadener Land and Rottal-Inn shut down. A little later the nationwide “breakwater lockdown” followed. In Sweden this is not foreseeable. “I cannot imagine that the measures will be extended to the whole country,” says Etzold. “There are many regions in Sweden that are sparsely populated. That was also the reason why people have always said that a nationwide lockdown is not necessary and probably also makes no sense.”
State epidemiologist Tegnell has always spoken out against such a tough step from the beginning of the pandemic. “Lockdowns are not a long-term solution,” said Tegnell on Wednesday in an interview with “Zeit Online”. Each country should discuss for itself how to deal with this pandemic, and this primarily requires the consent and acceptance of the population. “The trust in health institutions has never been so high,” said Tegnell of his country.
“Arrogant” position towards measures by other countries
In Sweden, the state trusts in the common sense of the citizens, so that coercive measures like in Germany are not necessary, says Etzold. Nevertheless, stricter restrictions could follow: “Sweden still has the option of issuing bans. The example of Germany shows that acceptance for this is falling steadily.” Of course, there was also criticism of the government’s corona course in Sweden. Etzold said the population was particularly shocked by the high number of deaths in nursing homes in spring. Almost 6,000 Swedes have died of Covid-19 so far.
A “shame,” says columnist Lotte Lundberg. She writes for the Swedish daily newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet” and has lived in Berlin for 16 years. In dealing with the pandemic, many Swedes had a certain arrogance on the one hand, and naivety on the other hand, said Lundberg in an interview with FOCUS Online. Particularly with regard to the strict measures in other countries, many citizens have been even more convinced of their government’s approach since the beginning. “So far, we’ve been sticking to our liberal stance,” says Lundberg.
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Recommendations work: Swedes traveled less, more people worked from home
The so-called “allmänna råd”, i.e. general recommendations, have been in place in Sweden since the beginning of the pandemic. The implementation is left to each individual citizen. In this way, individuals and employers are free to choose the extent to which they can work from home, and it is up to everyone to keep as far away from others as possible. To date, Sweden has not stipulated any specific distance regulations, such as the 1.5 meters in force in Germany. There is also no mask requirement. The Swedes have a hard time with bans, says Lundberg. “In Sweden, raising children is about insight and personal responsibility, not about punishments or prohibitions. That is also the Swedish approach to the pandemic.”
But the government’s appeals seem to be taking hold: According to a survey by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, 80 percent of Swedes are said to have changed their behavior with regard to the pandemic and are paying more attention to contact restrictions and hygiene measures. “The Swedes have changed their behavior more than almost all other Europeans,” said Anders Tegnell in an interview with “Zeit Online”. The population traveled less, 40 percent of the working population was in the home office in the spring.
At the same time as the new recommendations in the hotspots, the recommendations for older people in Sweden have been repealed. Previously, people over the age of 70 were advised to avoid public transport, shops, and other public places, as well as physical contact. The health authority argues that the strict recommendations had a negative impact on the “mental and physical health” of the elderly.
Demand for stricter measures
But there are also strict measures in Sweden: The upper limit for spectators at cultural and sporting events should be raised from 50 to 300 people from November 1st. At a press conference on Thursday, however, chief epidemiologist Tegnell announced that the number of participants should remain limited to 50 people.
The Stockholm Medical Association now wants even stricter restrictions in order to avoid a repetition of a crisis in the health system like in spring, reported the Swedish daily “Svenska Dagbladet”. And Skåne’s leading infection control activist Eva Melander said on Tuesday: “All in all, we are in a very different situation than we had just a week ago. And that is a serious situation.”