Parents in Sweden: How do you feel about sending your children back to school?

Swedish schools are set to reopen after the summer holidays in the coming weeks, after keeping schools for under-16s open during the pandemic. We want to hear from international parents how you feel about back-to-school season in times of corona.

Parents in Sweden: How do you feel about sending your children back to school?
File photo of a school in Stockholm. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Sweden kept schools open for young children in spring, but closed them for over-16s to curb the spread of the coronavirus. In autumn, schools will reopen for everyone, but secondary schools (gymnasium) have been given permission to move teaching online if they want to or change the schedule to avoid students travelling during rush hour.

Those who are against school closures tend to point to reports suggesting that schools are associated with lower risk of transmission, that keeping them open is essential for parents in key jobs, and that the social and educational benefits of allowing children to attend school are so crucial that they outweigh any disadvantages.

Those who favour school closures tend to argue in favour of a risk-averse approach, and that parents should be allowed to choose what is right for their children, especially if they have family members who belong to at-risk groups. Some parents have been told they risk being fined if they keep their children at home in Sweden.

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Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.”