Covid-19: Record-high case numbers and Swedish school closures

The region of Västra Götaland - where Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city, is located - reported 44,791 positive cases of Covid-19 last week, the highest number in a single week since the pandemic began.

Covid-19: Record-high case numbers and Swedish school closures
The Västra Götaland region has reported record-high numbers of PCR tests and positive cases of Covid-19 in the past week. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Västra Götaland also reported the highest number of PCR tests taken in a single week during the pandemic, 130,554 tests. Many in the region have experienced delays in booking tests and receiving results, meaning that there are probably even more infections than reported, the region said in a press statement.

Across the country, almost 140,000 new cases of Covid-19 have been reported since last Thursday. Last week, the Public Health Agency altered testing recommendations for regions, meaning that many regions no longer offer free PCR testing for the public. This has led many individuals to take at-home antigen tests, which are not registered in official figures.

In Stockholm region, 22 percent of school teachers were absent last week due to illness or quarantine, and five schools are closed, with more to come, newspaper DN reports.

So far this year, the city have introduced distance learning at 28 of the city’s 146 schools due to high absence or infection.

“Currently, it’s above all about staff absence. Until now we’ve only needed distance learning partly in some schools, in certain classes or year groups, and the decisions to do so only last a few days,” Teddy Söderberg, one of Stockholm’s primary school heads told DN.

Absences vary between different areas of the city, schools and year groups, as well as among staff groups and student groups. In some schools there have even been issues with school catering.

“We managed to solve one urgent issue by transporting cooked food from one school to another. It’s exhausting getting everything to work. We have a lot of employees doing a fantastic job now and a lot of coordinated efforts have meant we can hold our heads above water in this difficult situation,” Söderberg told DN.

Do you have children in a Swedish school or preschool? We want to hear from you about how you feel about the current outbreak. To share your thoughts, please respond to the survey in this article. We may use your answers in a future article.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”