How people in Sweden have changed their behaviour to avoid the coronavirus

How people in Sweden have changed their behaviour to avoid the coronavirus
People jogging in Nacka, Stockholm, on April 8th. Photo: AP Photo/Andres Kudacki
Nearly everyone who responded to a new survey about the coronavirus outbreak in Sweden said they had changed some of their behaviour to avoid catching the virus.

Pictures of Swedes enjoying a drink at crowded outdoor restaurants in cities have gone viral in recent weeks, showing the difference between Sweden and stricter lockdown measures in other parts of Europe.

But that does not mean that life has continued exactly as normal.

When pollsters Kantar Sifo, on behalf of Sweden's Civil Contigencies Agency, asked 1,832 people in an online survey if they had changed their behaviour in recent weeks, a whopping 98 percent said they had.

The survey quizzed respondents about 19 different behavioural changes, and found that 85 percent said they had been washing their hands more carefully, 72 percent that they had avoided shaking hands, and 69 percent that they had been following the news more than usual.

Fifty-six percent said they had avoided crowded public spaces, 42 percent said they had invited people over to their home less, and 41 percent said they had cut down on leisure or work travel.

Thirty-three percent said they had been working from home more.

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The study was carried out between March 21st and April 6th.

When only people who responded between April 2nd and 6th were taken into account, the number of respondents who said they had changed their behaviour increased in most areas of life.

For example, looking at the whole period, 33 percent said they had been shopping less in physical stores – but in the April 2nd-6th period that figure increased to 42 percent.

Women were significantly more likely than men to say that they had changed their behaviour, as were Stockholmers and people in the 56-79 age group.

Read the full survey (in Swedish) here.

What should you be doing to help reduce the rate of infection?

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.

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