Sweden’s coronavirus strategy was built on public trust in authorities. Can they still count on that?

Sweden's coronavirus strategy was built on public trust in authorities. Can they still count on that?
Anders Tegnell speaks at the now digital press conferences held by Swedish authorities. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
High levels of public trust in authorities have been cited time and time again as a key factor in Sweden's seemingly more relaxed approach to the coronavirus.

A survey from Dagens Nyheter and the Ipsos polling company showed this week that more people described themselves as worried about the burden on healthcare since the surveys began in March. More than four out of five respondents (82 percent) said they were worried.

Additionally, 41 percent said they were worried that authorities would not take sufficient measures in response to the pandemic, up from 31 percent in October.

And the proportion who said they had a high level of confidence in the Public Health Agency, which leads the Swedish response to the pandemic, fell to 59 percent in November, down from 68 percent in October.

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But that's not the lowest level since the pandemic began. In June, 58 percent said they had strong confidence in the agency, down from 69 percent in April. 

State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was questioned on the fall in trust, which comes as cases and deaths are rising, by Financial Times reporter Richard Milne at the health authorities' press conference on Thursday.

“I think you would have to assume that when the situation worsens, that trust in all different kinds of authorities would fall to a certain extent. I think it is still up on a very high level and fairly stable on that level, and we don't really see any open protests like we see in many other countries in Europe these days, so so far, the trust is still there and we are doing our best to keep it,” said Tegnell.

When asked about their trust in Tegnell himself, 65 percent said they had a high level of confidence in the epidemiologist in November. That's down from 72 percent in November but still higher than the levels in June and August, 60 and 64 percent respectively.

Journalist Richard Orange also questioned Tegnell on rumours in the Swedish media of a rift between the Public Health Agency and the government. In Sweden, agencies are independent of the government and the Public Health Agency has led the coronavirus strategy, but it is the government that has to make most legal changes, including for example laws on sale of alcohol or public events.

“All rumours of a rift between the government and the agencies are completely false. We have a very strong dialogue and strong levels of trust between us,” Tegnell said in response to one of his questions.

Orange asked about the multiple press conferences over recent days, which at times have resulted in different information coming from different sources. One notable example came after the new ban on events over eight people was announced, when the Interior Ministry and Tegnell initially gave differing information on whether it covered cinemas.

“We seriously hope that we have the same information from different sources. We have very intense dialogue between the government and different agencies, I would say,” said Tegnell on Thursday. “We are now in the stage where many of the measures need to be decided by the government because they are legal measures so it's very natural that they are the ones that communicate these measures.”

We want to hear how our readers, Sweden's international residents, feel about the country's coronavirus strategy. This is the third time we are asking our readers about the Swedish response; you can see what people told us in April and in June.

We have also written about specific situations and challenges facing groups of readers, including people belonging to risk groups, those who moved to Sweden during the pandemic, the international student experience, how your workplaces responded, long-distance relationships, challenges facing new parents, and your Christmas plans

Please fill out the short form below, and/or emailing [email protected] if you have further comments to share. 

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