Swedish court: Parents kept children locked up out of coronavirus fears

Three children have been taken into social care after their parents kept them isolated at home for months out of fear of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new ruling by a Swedish court.

Swedish court: Parents kept children locked up out of coronavirus fears
File photo of a school corridor in Sweden. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

The children, all older than 10, were according to social services in their town in Jönköping county prevented from leaving the home between March and July this year.

The parents had nailed wooden planks on the front door and kept the three children confined to their bedrooms where they also received their dinner, according to the Swedish administrative court which upheld the decision to take the children into social custody, in a ruling seen by The Local.

The court also found that two of the children had been denied dental care.

The parents, who are originally from a country that implemented far stricter lockdowns this year than Sweden and had been following pandemic news from that country, told the court they were worried about the coronavirus and had not intended to harm or neglect the children.

They denied keeping the children forcibly locked up at home and said they had been able to go outside and meet friends if they wanted, and had been given distance teaching.

But the court said it found no reason to doubt the oldest child, a teenager, who said the door had been nailed shut and that the parents had prevented them and their siblings from going outside or to school. According to the ruling, the family was previously known to social services and their situation had been investigated several times.

The court did consider in its judgment that the situation in society was “unusual” because of the coronavirus pandemic, but wrote that in the end the measures taken by the parents “would have to be seen as excessively far-reaching in order to protect yourself from getting infected”.

“The investigation shows that the isolation has affected the children negatively and there has been a significant risk of harming their health or development. Regardless of the reason for the isolation, the children's needs have not been taken into account nor met,” stated the court.

The parents will appeal the verdict, reports Swedish public radio P4 Jönköping.

Unlike many other countries, Sweden never imposed curfews during the coronavirus pandemic, instead urging people to follow guidelines such as good hand hygiene, physical distancing and working from home if possible.

Upper secondary schools practised distance teaching during the spring semester, but schools for under-16s were kept open throughout the pandemic. Home schooling is generally not permitted in Sweden, and several parents reported being warned they could get fined if they kept their children at home without a reason such as illness.

Member comments

  1. In Sweden a child can run with gangs, skip school for a year and despite their parents begging for social services to do something they will claim that there isn’t any place they can be placed that is not a worse environment than the one they are already in.

    Keep your kid from school(as a parent) because of a pandemic and they will take them into care – and presumably place them in an environment that is worse than the one they are already in.

    Apparently a child cannot be compelled to take psychiatric medication, or undergo counselling and many other things (including stay in class or on school site it appears)

    But keep your kid from school in Sweden despite Sweden’s policy at the time being the global outlier?

    We’ll take your kids and house them with other kids that have likely been placed into care for much more serious reasons (including severe behavioural problems and crime)

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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.”