Concern as coronavirus cases keep rising in several Swedish regions

Concern as coronavirus cases keep rising in several Swedish regions
Ice hockey teams have been mentioned as a source of cluster outbreaks. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Swedish health authorities have highlighted some regions that are seeing a clear rise in new coronavirus infections.

A total of 1,253 people tested positive for coronavirus in the Stockholm region last week, according to new figures, an increase compared to the week before when there were 923 positive cases.

“It is very serious that the number of cases is increasing. I'm worried that people are starting to relax. I know many who want to return to the normal situation we had before the pandemic. But we're not yet there,” Maria Rotzén Östlund, interim infectious disease doctor in the Swedish capital region, told the TT news agency.

When 923 people tested positive, it was a doubling of the number of positives week-on-week, prompting healthcare director Björn Eriksson to warn all Stockholmers to step up their efforts to follow health and safety guidelines.

Last week, the increase was proportionally slightly less, but it is still considered serious. Corona-linked deaths and serious illnesses are not currently seeing a major rise, but if relatively mild cases continue to increase, there is a concern that they could cause a wider spread in society and spread to risk groups, for example the elderly.

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Sweden was long spared the large second wave of coronavirus that many European countries have been seeing in recent months, but new infections have been on the increase in the past few weeks. The situation still varies a lot across the country, with different regions reporting different sources behind the spread.

Skåne in southern Sweden, as well as Uppsala and Örebro in central Sweden, are some of the regions that are also reporting a clear rise in new infections in the past couple of weeks.

“It seems that we are not following the recommendations as much. It seems that we are relaxing a bit when it comes to keeping a distance and washing our hands,” said Skåne regional director Alf Jönsson at a press conference on Wednesday. “Scanians,” he said, addressing residents in the southern region which is also known as Scania in English, “come on now, let's get a grip on this again”.

In Uppsala, the university hospital halted all planned surgeries on Wednesday after staff tested positive for the virus, although it is currently unknown whether they were infected at work or not, wrote regional healthcare councillor Malin Sjöberg Högrell on Facebook. She said Uppsala currently had Sweden's fastest rate of transmission, adding that it was most prominent among people aged 20-29 but could be seen in all age groups.

“The infection disease doctor in Region Uppsala has had meetings with the Public Health Agency to discuss if any local decisions should be made due to the increase(d) spread of the virus – it is possible that restaurants will be required to close at 11pm. But no one knows if that will stop the spread or if it will just lead to parties at home.”

Some sources of the spread in Sweden have not yet been identified, but some of them can be traced back to cluster outbreaks linked to student parties, other private parties, workplaces and sporting activities – in particular ice hockey teams.

“We have been in touch with Finland and Norway who are seeing similar patterns, so we are looking together at what it is about ice hockey that causes greater spread,” state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told TT after the health authorities' bi-weekly press conference on Tuesday. “Very little indicates it happens on the ice.”

A total of 96,145 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Sweden since the start of the outbreak, out of whom 5,883 people have died and 2,619 received intensive care treatment.

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