Swedish parliament holds memorial ceremony for coronavirus victims

Swedish parliament holds memorial ceremony for coronavirus victims
Music by Bach was played by a quartet from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in honour of the victims. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer / TT
The Swedish parliament held a memorial ceremony on Wednesday morning for the thousands of people who have died of the coronavirus in the country.

Holding this type of ceremony in parliament is an unusual step in Sweden.

Previous examples were arranged to honour victims of the 2004 tsunami in which 534 Swedes perished, and of the MS Estonia ferry disaster two decades before that, as well as following the killings of Prime Minister Olof Palme in 1986 and Foreign Minister Anna Lindh in 2003.

Parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén said the coronavirus memorial was not only to honour the thousands of people in Sweden who have died, but also for people who have lost loved ones or been seriously affected by the virus in other ways. 

“We remember everything and everyone we have lost,” said Norlén. “This moment is for all those who have lost their job, their health, their life, but also for those who were left behind when a loved one's life ended.”

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He named some of the almost 5,000 people among the known deaths linked to coronavirus in Sweden. “The stories of their lives remind us of the extent of this loss our society has suffered.”

Norlén also noted that the ceremony was not a sign that the pandemic was over in Sweden, but that it was held ahead of the parliament going on summer recess. This begins today, though parliament will continue to meet on some occasions over summer, including to discuss the coronavirus situation.

Sweden's parliament has reduced the number of politicians who can be present at one time due to the risk of spreading the infection in large groups. Around 50 of the 349 members of parliament attended, including Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, and leader of the Christian Democrat party Ebba Busch.

The ceremony closed with a minute of silence.

Almost 5,000 people have died in connection with the coronavirus, according to the Public Health Agency's figures which include those who died within 30 days of testing positive for the virus. Figures from the National Board of Health and Welfare in April, which looked at the cause of death as given by a doctor, regardless of whether a test had been carried out, suggested the real figure could be 10 percent higher. Since then, the Public Health Agency has significantly increased testing rates. 


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