How travel increased in Sweden last week – despite coronavirus warnings

Swedish authorities have been ramping up coronavirus warnings in recent weeks, urging people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel. But despite this, last week saw an increase in daily trips in Sweden.

How travel increased in Sweden last week – despite coronavirus warnings
On the whole, Swedes have been travelling far less than normal during the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Daily trips increased by around 10 percent between April 20th and 26th compared to the week before, according to new data by mobile phone operator Telia. The three regions that saw the biggest increase were central regions Västmanland (25 percent), Södermanland (24 percent) and Dalarna (22 percent).

At the bottom of the table, Stockholm, Skåne, Halland, Västerbotten, Norrbotten and Västernorrland saw only a marginal increase in daily trips, according to Telia – up less than five percent on the previous week.

Jämtland was the only region where travel decreased, with two percent fewer trips made.

Comparing last week to the first week of February, travel in Sweden as a whole has decreased by -13 percent. In the country's three most populous regions, Västra Götaland saw the biggest decrease (-23 percent) followed by Stockholm (-16 percent). In Skåne travel dropped by -3 percent in the same period.

There was a sharp dip in the middle of that, when travel dropped in Sweden and its regions between the start of Februrary and the end of March, but since then the number of daily trips have been on the rise again.

“The numbers in themselves don't give us an explanation as to why Swedes are moving around more. Perhaps more are choosing to go to work or travel further to make errands or go on a day out,” said Telia data analyst head Kristofer Ågren in a statement.

The data tracks mobility patterns where people move more than 500 metres, and does not reveal reasons for travel – whether it's for leisure, grocery shopping or going to and from work. But Ågren told the TT news agency that it indicates that in Stockholm, fewer people are working from home compared to mid-March.

Swedish authorities have been stepping up communication in recent weeks, urging people to avoid non-essential travel and to work from home if possible. But the country has not imposed a lockdown, and people are also encouraged to be outside and enjoy fresh air and nature – as long as they keep their distance from others.

How Swedish mobility patterns changed last week. Photo: Telia

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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