More than 1,000 people have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in Sweden and there is an ongoing outbreak in Stockholm in particular that can't be linked to international travel. Health authorities said the time had now come to try to work from home if possible.
“It could affect how the development looks in the coming weeks,” Public Health Agency state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters at a press conference in Stockholm on Monday.
The advice applies to everyone who has jobs that allow them to do so, but is particularly important for people living and working in Stockholm, where the infection is spreading in the community.
Sweden's guidelines had previously been that people should stay at home as soon as they start to experience symptoms – such as a cough or a fever, however mild – but otherwise live mostly as normal, including taking precautions such as regular hand-washing and covering your mouth if you cough.
Elderly people (those over 70), who are one of the main risk groups, have previously been advised to limit social contact and people have been told to avoid non-essential visits to for example care homes and hospitals.
Tegnell said it was now more important than ever for elderly people to stay at home, and to avoid doing even everyday things like going to the supermarket to buy food. He urged people to help vulnerable groups in Sweden with their grocery shopping, but not visit their elderly relatives.
Seven coronavirus patients, all elderly with health conditions, have died in Sweden so far.
The virus is not yet having a significant effect on public health on the whole in Stockholm or Sweden compared to the seasonal flu, said Tegnell, but added that it was crucial at this stage to protect vulnerable groups and implement policies in order to “flatten the curve” and minimise the impact on health services.
— The Conversation US (@ConversationUS) March 12, 2020
Studies so far show that around 80 percent of people only experience mild symptoms, so if these people stay at home that reduces the burden on the healthcare sector and prevents these people infecting others.
Tegnell urged people to be observant of their symptoms, as many people who contract the coronavirus may get symptoms that are so mild you would under normal circumstances not pay them any attention.
Regional healthcare authorities have warned that they urgently need more test kits and protective equipment for hospital workers, and Sweden's National Board for Health and Welfare has been granted the powers to redistribute resources between the regions, as well as purchasing new equipment.
Sweden has previously banned public events of more than 500 people, but has unlike many other countries not closed schools, which its health authorities say is not an effective measure at this stage.
We understand that this is a difficult time for many of our readers. Please email us if you have questions or would like to suggest a story for us to share. Read all The Local's coronavirus articles here.