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Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Find out what's going on in Sweden today with The Local's short roundup of the news in less than five minutes.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Friday
An operation takes place in a hospital in Sweden. Photo: TT

Covid-19 no longer classed as a “threat to society” 

The Covid-19 virus has lost its status as a “threat to society” and “threat to public health”, meaning it is no longer possible for the authorities to order those infected to participate in contract tracing or go into quarantine. 

The so-called pandemic law, and another special law on bars and restaurants, are also expiring, losing the government a raft of special powers they temporarily gave themselves to slow the spread of infection. 

“This comes as a result of our good vaccination coverage which is protecting people from serious illness,” said Sara Byfors from the Public Health Agency. “That’s why we no longer consider that it should be considered a threat to public health, because it no longer impacts on society in the same way.” 

She said the agency did not expect Covid-19 to regain the classification unless a new vaccine-resistant variant arises. 

But she said that the virus was still widely spread within the population, and said the recommendation remained to stay at home if you become ill. The Public Health Agency is still recommending that contact tracing continues within the healthcare and elderly care system. 

The government has ordered experts to begin preparing a new, improved law on infectious diseases, building on what has been learned during the pandemic, with a proposal due to be submitted on August 31st next year. 

Swedish Vocab: samhällsfarlig – a critical threat to society

LGBT debaters face widespread abuse: study 

About half of those active in debating gay, bisexual, and trans issues have faced abuse, threats or actual violence, with a third of them experiencing this in the last year, according to a new report from the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society. 

The agency sent an inquiry to 4,000 voluntary organisations and religious groups, of whom 43 percent replied.

“The responses show that threats and hate, or the fear of being exposed to these things, risks reducing the variety of voices in the debate in society,” Lena Nyberg, the organisation’s general director, wrote in a debate article in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Swedish Vocab: HBTQ (homosexuella, bisexuella, trans- och queerpersoner) – LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)

Hospital waiting times grow 25 percent in a year

The number of people waiting to see a healthcare specialist or consultant doctor in Sweden has risen 25 percent over the last year, as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic takes its toll. 

In December 2021, 465,800 patients were waiting for their first appointment with a consultant, and 163,600 were waiting for an operation, the National Board of Health and Welfare has reported, a 25 percent rise on the number waiting in January 2021. 

According to the agency, four out of ten patients had been waiting more than 90 days for an operation, and 28 percent had been waiting more than 90 days for an appointment. 

Did Russian jets carry nuclear weapons into Swedish airspace?

Swedish broadcaster TV4 reported on Wednesday that the Russian jets that violated Swedish airspace this month were carrying nuclear weapons. But defence experts in Sweden are sceptical.

According to an article published by TV4 on Wednesday, two of the Russian planes that had to be escorted away from airspace near Gotland on March 2nd were equipped with nuclear weapons. It was picked up by international newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. 

Carl-Johan Edström, the head of Sweden’s airforce, assured TT that he would not have kept such information secret. “If we had an increased threat against Sweden which could be linked to this event or to other events we would have informed people about it,” he said.

“My judgement from the pictures is that the planes look completely unarmed”, said expert Andreas Hörnedal from the Swedish Defence Research Agency.

He said Kh-32 cruise missiles, which can be nuclear-armed, cannot anyway be carried on a Sukhoi 24.

“These are huge missiles that weigh 5.5 tonnes and are carried on a different plane”, he said. “This was an obvious factual error, which, on the other hand, can happen when it comes to technological details”.

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Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Magdalena Andersson in the US, property prices drop and Turkey's Nato objections. Here's Sweden's news on Thursday.

Today in Sweden: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to visit US President Biden

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in Washington today alongside Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The two will visit US President Joe Biden to discuss the war in Ukraine and Turkey’s opposition to their Nato applications, which were handed in yesterday.

“The meeting is an important security policy signal,” Andersson wrote on her Instagram account from Washington DC.

The two Nordic leaders boarded the flight to Washington DC shortly after their Nato ambassadors applied to join the alliance.

At the meeting in the White House today, the delicate security situation in both Finland and Sweden will be discussed. A number of countries, including the USA, have stated that they will support Sweden and Finland in the period before their Nato applications are approved by all member states in the alliance.

A final approval could take up to a year, and Russia is expected to react to the two countries joining Nato in some way.

Sweden and Finland’s decision to join the Nato alliance was applauded by Ukrainians taking part in a demonstration outside the White House.

Swedish vocabulary: stöd – support

Property prices plummet after central bank increases inflation rate

Property prices have dropped after the Swedish central bank increased inflation rates.

At the same time, the amount of apartments on property website Hemnet has increased to a record level, as sellers seek to get their property on the market quickly.

Valueguard’s price index, which measures changes in prices, sank by 1.7 percent in the two first weeks of May in the Stockholm region. In Gothenburg, prices decreased by 1.3 when compared with April.

This is the first property price measurement in May since the central bank decided to increase key index rates by 0.25 percent while also sharply raising their interest rate forecast.

Having said that, there was also a decrease in property prices in April – 0.3 percent for apartments and 0.5 percent for houses.

Swedish vocabulary: en nedgång – a decrease

Turkish president Erdogan urges Nato to ‘respect’ concerns over Sweden joining

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has threatened to block Finland and Sweden from joining Nato, urged the alliance’s members on Wednesday to “respect” Ankara’s concerns about the two countries, which Turkey accuses of harbouring terrorists.

“Our only expectation from Nato allies is… to first understand our sensitivity, respect and finally support it,” Erdogan told his party’s legislators in parliament.

Finland and Sweden submitted a joint application to join Nato on Wednesday May 18th as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces a dramatic reappraisal of security in Europe.

Erdogan accused Stockholm of providing safe haven to members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) designated as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

“We asked them to extradite 30 terrorists but they refused to do so,” he said.

“You will not send back the terrorists to us and then ask our support for your Nato membership … We cannot say ‘yes’ to make this security organisation being lacking in security,” he added.

Swedish vocab: terrorister – terrorists