The week leading up to Easter is commonly called Holy Week.
Today, Palm Sunday, marks the beginning of this solemn week. And in many places the mood is more solemn than ever.
Covid-19 has Sweden and the world in its grip. Streets and squares are empty and quiet.
The pandemic has dealt a major blow to our businesses, workers and the Swedish economy – to Swedish society as a whole.
At the same time, in other parts of our society, the week ahead will be all but quiet.
Civic mobilisation is taking place. I am thinking in particular of the health care sector. There, employees and volunteers are now working – together – to save as many lives as they can.
This is a huge task. It requires courage. And it will require endurance. To all of you involved in this vital work, I offer my heartfelt thanks.
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Let us turn our thoughts to everyone who is working to ensure that the rest of Sweden continues to function – despite the constraints of the situation and despite the risks to their own health.
And to those of you making sure that older people receive the care they need, that we can buy food, that public transport continues to operate, and everything else we so easily take for granted – my warmest thanks to you all.
As I mentioned, Holy Week leads us to Easter. For me, and for many people in our country, this is an important celebration and one we look forward to.
It is a time when we are keen to travel and perhaps spend time with family and friends. Many go to church.
But, this Easter, some of this will not be possible. We have to accept this. We have to rethink, prepare ourselves for staying home.
We might feel sad about this. But there will be more Easter holidays. After all, for most us, this will require relatively minor sacrifices – especially if we compare this to falling seriously ill or losing a friend or member of our family.
Coronavirus in Sweden:
Today, I am thinking especially of all the children in our country who are now at risk of losing grandparents. Of missing out on the security and wisdom they can offer.
For their sake, we must act responsibly and selflessly. Everyone in our country has this obligation. Each and every one of us.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty. But one thing is certain: we will remember these times and look back on them.
Did I think about other people? Or did I put myself first? We will have to live with the choices we make today, for a long time to come. They will impact many.
Easter will soon be here. And whether or not we celebrate it, I believe that we can embrace its message:
The journey is long and arduous. But in the end, light triumphs over darkness, and we will be able to feel hope again.
In a few weeks' time, I will be 74. That's quite an age. But this also means that I have experienced many of the crises that our country has endured.
I have seen how crises help us to re-evaluate, to distinguish between important and unimportant. How fear turns into an understanding of the seriousness of the problem and how it can be solved.
And one thing I have learned is this: however deep or protracted a crisis becomes, it will ultimately come to an end.
And when this one does, we will all benefit from the consideration and strength that the Swedish people are now demonstrating.
This strength will be an asset to our country – in the future that we are longing for.
It remains for me now to wish you and everyone in Sweden an enjoyable Easter – in spite of everything.
And though it might be hard, remember: You are not alone.
From The Local:
In Sweden, the official advice requires everyone to:
Stay at home if you have any cold- or flu-like symptoms, even if they are mild and you would normally continue life as normal. Stay at home until you have been fully symptom-free for at least two days.
Practise good hygiene, by regularly and thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitiser when that’s not possible, and covering any coughs and sneezes with your elbow.
Keep distance from all other people when in public places. That includes shops, parks, museums, and on the street, for example. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping at least a 1.5-2 metre distance.
Avoid large gatherings, including parties, weddings, and other activities.
Work from home if you can. Employers have been asked to ensure this happens where possible.
Avoid all non-essential travel, both within and outside Sweden. That includes visits to family, planned holidays, and any other trips that can be avoided.
If you have to travel, avoid busy times such as rush hour if you can. This reduces the number of people on public transport and makes it easier for people to keep their distance.
If you are over 70 or belong to a high-risk group, you should stay at home and reduce all social contacts. Avoid going to the shops (get groceries delivered or try to find someone who can help you), but you can go outside if you keep distance from other people. Read more about the help available to those in risk groups here.
By following these precautions, we can all help to protect those who are most at risk and to reduce the rate of infection, which in turn reduces the burden on Sweden's healthcare sector.
- Read more detail about the precautions we should all be taking in this paywall-free article. Advice in English is also available from Sweden's Public Health Agency and the World Health Organisation.