How you can help others in Sweden during the coronavirus outbreak

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
How you can help others in Sweden during the coronavirus outbreak
Can you offer help to an elderly neighbour to ensure they don't need to go to the shops, or a phonecall to check how they're feeling? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT

The coronavirus outbreak has caused uncertainty and concern for almost everyone, particularly those in risk groups or aged over 70. People across Sweden are coming together to support their neighbours and communities through the outbreak – here's what to know if you'd like to help, or if you need some help yourself.


Who might need help?

There are a few groups of people who are especially affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

People who are in the groups shown to be at highest risk from the virus, namely the elderly and those with certain pre-existing conditions, have been asked to stay at home and limit social contact, and this could last a while. The Public Health Agency has asked over-70s to stay home as much as possible and to get help with errands such as grocery shopping. People in this group are allowed to go out for walks, but advised to avoid contact with others by staying around two metres away (the width of an average car).

It's possible to order items online, but for many shops delivery times are currently longer than normal due to high demand, and it's also possible to pick up prescription medicines for someone else if you first register as a proxy (there's information how to do that here, in Swedish).

It's never been more important to let your community know you're there for them, or to ask for help if you need it. File photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

People who have the virus or flu- or cold-like symptoms have also been asked to stay at home (if they do not require hospital care) until at least two days of being entirely symptom-free. That means they may need help having groceries, medicines, or other essentials delivered during this time.

And small businesses are especially vulnerable to the negative economic impacts of the outbreak, while many workers in the hard-hit tourism industry have been laid off.

As a news site, here at The Local we are grateful for our incredible members whose support helps keep us afloat. But we do need your help to tell the stories that matter to international residents in Sweden, so if you have questions, feedback or a story you would like to share, please don't hesitate to email us.

Facebook groups

Several groups have been set up by people keen to help others, particularly in terms of delivering food and groceries. If you are able to help, or if you need help, you can join the group and state where you are and what help you need or can offer.

There are a few nationwide groups, including:

And there are also regional groups, such as:

You might be able to find a group for your neighbourhood by searching 'corona', 'coronavirus' or 'hjälp' ('help') plus the name of your city or neighbourhood on Facebook.

If you need help and go through one of these groups, please use caution. While the majority of offers of help are likely to be genuine, it's possible that scammers will exploit the opportunity. Try to check that the person's profile is genuine and get some information about them before sending them a payment, for example. 

It may also be worth finding some other community-based Facebook groups if the outbreak means you're spending a lot more time indoors and alone than usual.

There are groups for people in different cities, situations, or with specific interests, where you could offer to help or simply find people to chat to. 

Don't forget that supporting others isn't just about the physical help you can offer, but may just be listening to someone's worries or showing your appreciation. Every evening at 8pm, people in Sweden (and around Europe) are being encouraged to take to their window or balcony and applaud the country's healthcare workers, for example. See the Facebook page here.

An offer of help for neighbours posted in an apartment block stairwell. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman / SvD / TT

Community organisations

If you can't find a relevant initiative for your area, many apartment buildings and neighbourhoods have physical noticeboards. You could consider posting a note offering to give any help you're able to, from grocery deliveries to a video call if your neighbours are lonely. This is an especially good way to reach older people who may not use social media.

The app Nextdoor is a neighbourhood hub, where you can stay updated on events in your local area. A representative for the company told The Local that people across Sweden were using the app to ask for and offer help, and to simply check in with their neighbours.

Supporting small businesses

The virus itself is of course a worry to those in risk groups, and could put a burden on Sweden's healthcare sector. But another concern is the longer-term impact on the economy and people's livelihoods.

So far the tourism and travel industries have been hardest hit, with airlines, ferry companies, and hotels laying off thousands of staff.

Additionally, small businesses are typically most vulnerable to economic crashes. If you're in a position to do so, supporting these businesses is a way to help your local community and the economy.

If you can continue to shop, order online, buy gift cards for restaurants or cultural organisations, this will help the businesses survive the uncertainty. And many businesses are offering extra services to support their communities during the coronavirus outbreak.

We're allowing members of The Local to advertise their businesses on The Local's Noticeboard for free, and are advertising the Noticeboard to help make sure your ads get seen and reach a wide audience. 

We've also gathered a list of ways you can support businesses in the article below:

Is there anything else you can do?

If you have medical experience or are able to supply equipment or volunteer in the healthcare sector, several hospitals have said they are actively looking for this kind of help -- particularly if you have experience working in intensive care.

Check the website of your hospital first (to avoid putting too much pressure on busy phonelines). For example, here's the relevant information for the Södersjukhuset in Stockholm, general information for the Stockholm region, and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. 

Sweden's blood donation clinics are worried that the outbreak will lead to a blood shortage for other types of healthcare. There is no serious shortage yet, but because more and more people are choosing to isolate themselves at home as much as possible, it means that fewer people are donating blood.

Swedish blood donation centres are now urging healthy people to help donate blood. If you are worried about being in crowded spaces, it is possible to call the clinic beforehand to ask if it is a busy day or not. And if you do visit, you are asked to got there on your own and not bring a friend or relative with you.

In the worst-case scenario, a widespread outbreak of the coronavirus in Sweden will make the shortage even worse, because it is not possible to donate blood for two weeks after you have been ill with a fever. There are usually fewer blood donors during normal flu season in Sweden, and there's a concern that because healthy people are avoiding going outside, the coronavirus will make this even worse.

Most Swedish clinics require donors to speak Swedish, and it is up to the nurse to assess the donor's understanding. But some clinics in Stockholm offer English-speakers the chance to donate blood.

We will keep this article updated with further initiatives and ideas as we hear of them. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to the article so far. Do you know of a way to support people and local businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak in Sweden, particularly outside the Stockholm area? Let us know.


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