‘Embarrassing’: Sweden’s public health chief rode the bus without a face mask

'Embarrassing': Sweden's public health chief rode the bus without a face mask
Sweden's Public Health Agency director-general Johan Carlson. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
Sweden's public health chief has admitted using public transport without a face mask despite his own agency's recommendations, saying it was an "embarrassing" mistake.

Sweden was long one of the few countries in the world not to recommend public use of face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus, but in January the Public Health Agency changed its guidelines to recommend face masks on public transport during rush hour.

But the agency's director Johan Carlson was spotted at Stockholm's central train station without a face mask on Monday, reports public broadcaster SVT. Carlson argued that the guidelines don't include train platforms where he said it was possible to keep a distance, but admitted to slipping up on another occasion.

“I think it was last Thursday. My only bus journey in Uppsala [where he lives]. I didn't notice that it was rush hour. The bus was empty so there was nothing that made me think of it. It was of course embarrassing,” he said.

According to the Public Health Agency's guidelines, people born before 2004 should wear face masks on public transport between 7-9am and 4-6pm on weekdays, unless it is possible to book a designated seat.

“When I was about to get off there were two ladies who got on wearing face masks. I thought 'oh, they're wearing face masks' and I looked at my watch and it was well past that time,” Carlson added.

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Asked by SVT's reporter whether he thought it was especially important for him to be a role model in his role as Public Health Agency director-general, Carlson agreed: “Yes, I definitely think so. I really try to be, and observe the rules we issue. You have to handle it the way you want others to. Sometimes you forget, and it's human, but I think you have to work systematically on these issues even when it comes to your own self.”

Carlson is not the only one who has been caught not following the recommendations at all times. His Danish counterpart Søren Brostrøm admitted in November to taking his face mask off on a train to have a sip of coffee, and then forgetting to put it back on.

Dan Eliasson, the director-general of Sweden's Civil Contingencies Agency, was forced to step down from his post after he went on a trip to the Canary Islands during the Christmas break.

Both Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Justice Minister Morgan Johansson were spotted shopping in December, despite guidelines to avoid busy places such as shopping centres.

Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson was photographed renting skis at a Swedish resort just before Christmas, and the heads of two other Swedish state agencies travelled to Swedish ski resorts according to Svenska Dagbladet.


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  1. Swedes are so slow to decide anything. You may have noticed that China, with a 100x larger population, brought Covid under control and mask wearing was a key component. Duh!

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