Swedish PM: ‘People are getting lazy in following the Covid-19 recommendations’

Sweden's Prime Minister has warned that people becoming more lax in following Covid-19 measures is directly linked to a rise in new cases, in a press conference that also addressed a European Medicines Agency report that the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe to use.

Swedish PM: 'People are getting lazy in following the Covid-19 recommendations'
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven called on people in Sweden to better follow recommendations. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT

Löfven gave a stern admonishment to people in the country to better follow the restrictions and recommendations in place, adding that big Easter celebrations were out of the question.

“We are now in a situation where the spread of infection is at a much too high level,” he said. “We can see that more and more people are stopping following the advice and recommendations and that is having a negative effect on the spread of infection. More people need to do more, for the country and for the good of our fellow people.”

It will not be possible to hold big family celebrations over Easter, he said. “The coronavirus doesn’t care about our festivities.” 

At the press conference, Johan Carlson, the Public Health Agency’s director, defended the decision to suspend the use of the AstraZeneca vaccination while Sweden’s neighbour Finland opted to continue administering it. 

“People can take end up in different decisions here, and I wouldn’t say one is more correct than the other,” he said. While he remained convinced Sweden had taken the right decision, he added, he did not, therefore, think that Finland had taken the wrong one.

Asked whether Sweden’s decision to keep ski resorts open and not advise against travelling during the ‘sportlov’ holiday had contributed to today’s rising rate of infections, Carlson said it was “too early to tell”. “But we can see nothing that suggests that travel during sportlov has led to any great outbreaks,” he said. 

On the AstraZeneca vaccine, Löfven said “everyone needs to feel safe when they get the jab” but added that he would have taken the AstraZeneca vaccine if offered to him today. 

The assertion came after both British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French Prime Minister Jean Castex both said they would get injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had been suspended by countries across Europe after several cases of blood clots and haemorrhaging among those recently vaccinated. 

After the EMA’s decision, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told Sweden’s TT newswire that the AstraZeneca jab was “an extremely good vaccine”, adding that it would be “extremely sad if we weren’t able to use it.” 

But while Germany, France, Italy and Spain said they would resume using the jab as soon as the EMA announced its decision, Tegnell said that the Swedish Public Health Agency would take its decision next week, reiterating what his colleague Karin Tegmark Wisell had said earlier in the day. 

“We want to feel certain that there aren’t any groups to whom we should not offer this vaccine,” he said. 

As for whether the pause in offering the AstraZeneca jab would affect the goal of offering vaccines to all adults by the end of June, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said she did not think this would be the case.

“It hasn’t been very many days,” she said of the pause which began on Tuesday. “It is clear that every day has an impact, but big changes in deliveries have a much bigger impact.”

Member comments

  1. I was very supportive of the Swedish approach to the pandemic and I really feel for all public servants having to steer us through it. Especially when I heard about the vile criticism, death threats and threats of sexual violence they receive day in day out on social media; that they need security around their houses. Just awful.

    But lately I have been very shocked to see so many people on public transport in Stockholm not wearing any face masks. Wearing my face mask I visited a computer repair shop today, very small and full of men working next to each other, no face masks and not keeping a distance. And last week I visited a chiropractor who wore no face covering either. Afterwards I realised how crazy this was – I spend the whole year very carefully avoiding close contact with any of my friends or visitors and then spend 20 minutes with a health professional – handling my body and breathing all over me (after having handled lots of other bodies all year) without a face mask! He said he thought he had stayed healthy all year probably because he had been exposed to the virus again and again. Not very scientific.

    I do wonder if Sweden needs rules now, not recommendations.

    I also don’t see any public information videos conveying just what a nightmare we are causing for nurses and doctors if we get ill or infect others. It’s all so low-key and far away. If we want to have a sense that we are all in this together we are going to need to appeal to people’s emotions and their natural desire to take care of each other.

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New Covid-19 wave in Sweden ‘to peak at end of September’

Sweden's Public Health Agency has warned of a new autumn wave of Covid-19 which it expects to peak at the end of September.

New Covid-19 wave in Sweden 'to peak at end of September'

According to both of the two new scenarios published by the agency on Monday, infection rates are set to rise steadily over the next month, something the agency said was due to a falling immunity in the population and greater contact between people as they return to schools and workplaces after the summer. 

“It is difficult to say how high the peak will be, but it is unlikely that it will reach the same levels as in January and February,” the agency’s unit chief Sara Byfors said in a press release. “The most important thing is that people in risk groups and those who are 65 years old and above get vaccinated with a booster dose in the autumn to reduce the risk of serious illness and death.” 

Under Scenario 0, the amount of contact between people stays at current levels, leading to a peak in reported Covid-19 cases at around 5,000 a day. In Scenario 1, contact between people increases by about 10 percent from the middle of August, leading to a higher peak of about 7,000 reported cases a day. 

The agency said that employers should be prepared for many staff to be off sick simultaneously at points over the next month, but said in its release that it did not judge the situation to be sufficiently serious to require either it or the government to impose additional infection control measures. 

It was important, however, it said, that those managing health and elderly care continued to test those with symptoms and to track the chain of infections, that people go and get the booster doses when they are supposed to have under the vaccination programme, and that those who have symptoms of Covid-19 stay home.