King of Sweden on the coronavirus pandemic: ‘We have failed’

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf on Thursday said the country had "failed" to save lives during the pandemic, seen as a rare comment from the monarch who normally refrains from commenting on political issues.

King of Sweden on the coronavirus pandemic: 'We have failed'
King Carl XVI Gustaf taking part in a video meeting earlier this year. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Scandinavian nation is currently struggling to contain a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, with new cases rising since mid-October.

“I believe we have failed,” Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf told broadcaster SVT in an interview for a programme summing up the year.

“We have a large number that have died and that is terrible,” the King added.

“The people of Sweden have suffered tremendously in difficult conditions. One thinks of all the family members who have happened to be unable to say goodbye to their deceased family members. I think it is a tough and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye.”

Some commentators took the comments as a rebuke of Sweden's controversial coronavirus strategy, which has most relied on non-coercive measures.

Sweden's king has largely ceremonial powers and does not typically comment on political issues.

Questioned by AFP, the Swedish Royal Court however stressed that the comments should not be taken as a comment on the strategy and were “unpolitical”.

“The King is referring to the whole of Sweden and the whole society. What the King is doing is showing empathy for all those affected in different ways and also those who have died in the pandemic,” Margareta Thorgren, head of information at the court, said.

The comment comes at a time when the Swedish strategy is again under scrutiny as a difficult second wave has seen both the number of new cases and deaths surging.

The country of some 10.3 million on Thursday recorded a total of 7,893 deaths associated to Covid-19, with more than 1,900 of those since the start of November.

It also saw that number of hospitalisations reach over 2,500, topping the peak recorded in April.

Member comments

  1. There’s something weird going on at the moment. Almost like a self-destructive tug-o-war between the government, FHM, Socialstyrelsen, journalists, various academics, and a whole load of self-appointed experts. One would never have known that Sweden had so many pandemic experts just waiting to come out of their slumber and suddenly write articles for the national press and be interviewed by television channels to explain that their solution was obviously the best if only someone had asked, and that everything else done so far is rubbish.

    And now the King has inadvertently joined in. Although it seems like his thoughts have been taken a little out of context. The poor guy gets a leading question, and then you see him hesitate, almost embarrassed, and then slowly say what he said. I honestly don’t think he was aiming at any particular person or agency or minister, but was just thoroughly fed up with the whole situation, like most of the world is. He seemed somewhat despondent. But he never has been a great speaker, either in conversation or with a prepared speech.

    Nonetheless, the King unfortunately missed a golden opportunity to thank Sweden’s healthcare staff and everyone else concerned for their tireless work, and to encourage those badly hit through the uncertain status of their employment or small business. Or perhaps that comes later in the yuletide interview that hasn’t been pre-released yet.

  2. Also want to point out the glaring obvious… Since when has Covid-19 been a ‘political’ issue? It’s a health issue plain and simple. Regardless of who holds the reins of governmental power, it’s a health issue. And it’s one that nobody wants to ever have to deal with. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this, only risk mitigation, agile responses and communication. Those in the front line are literally doing the best they can with a very bad situation, and frankly, considering how the rest of the world has responded, I defy anyone to come up with any better plan. So the King has absolutely every right to have a say in this ‘non political’ matter. It’s the media, plain and simple, that has turned this into a political issue. So I suggest, for sanity’s sake, stop it! Just stop it!

    Only negative was that he should have thanked the essential workers.

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