Swedish minister: Monkeypox ‘will not need Covid-19-style measures’

Monkeypox has been classified as an "allmänfarlig sjukdom", an illness representing a danger to society. However, combating it will not require any of the measures seen with Covid-19, Sweden's health minister has said.

Swedish minister:  Monkeypox 'will not need Covid-19-style measures'
Health minister Lena Hallengren has said that monkeypox should not be compared to the Covid-19 virus. Photo: Lars Schröder/TT

“There is no reason to tie monkeypox to Covid-19 and everything that makes people think of, such as fear of the illness and societal measures to control it,” Health Minister Lena Hallengren told the SvD newspaper in an interview.  “There will be no limits or restrictions on how we live due to monkeypox. There are no plans to do that.” 

Hallengren said was important to classify the illness as allmänfarlig, or “representing a danger to society”, because that meant that anyone who infected with it was legally obliged to report it to authorities under infection control laws, making it much easier to track the virus and limit its spread.

Monkeypox, apkoppor in Swedish, is a zoonotic virus (a virus spread from animals to humans) which most often occurs in areas of tropical rainforest in Central and West Africa. It is occasionally found in other regions, and cases have recently been discovered in Europe, North America and Australia.

Fredrik Elgh, an epidemiologist at Umeå University, agreed that monkeypox was unlikely to spark lockdowns and recommendations similar to those seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, telling Sweden’s TT newswire that “this is not a new pandemic”.

“The general public do not need to be worried about monkeypox,” he said. “But my belief and hope is that this will not be a pandemic like corona. The most likely scenario is that as long as we contact trace properly, it will ebb out.”

He explained that the two viruses are different types of viruses, meaning that monkeypox cannot adapt as easily as the Covid-19 virus.

“Monkeypox is a DNA virus, while coronavirus is a RNA virus,” he said. “DNA viruses are much more stable, which means that you don’t need to be worried that they will adapt as quickly. It would take a lot and a long time before they adapt to humans.”

Monkeypox is spread via close contact with an animal or human with the monkeypox virus. It can be transmitted via bodily fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets or through contaminated materials, such as bedding.

Recent cases of the virus in Europe are thought to have been spread through sexual activity.

Other illnesses classed as allmänfarlig include salmonella, HIV and chlamydia.

Member comments

  1. After seeing that the measures did hardly any good, this is quite a shocking thing to say!
    These measures are never needed again!

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WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”