King of Sweden admits country’s soft-touch approach to coronavirus has failed

Sweden’s coronavirus strategy has failed, its king has said, as the country struggles with a far higher death toll than its Scandinavian neighbours.

Carl XVI Gustaf told Swedes in his annual Christmas address that it was “traumatic” for the relatives of the nearly 8,000 people who have died from Covid-19 not to be able to say goodbye.

In comments published ahead of his televised speech on Monday, the king reserved strong criticism for Sweden’s soft-touch approach to the pandemic.

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“I think we have failed,” he said, “We have a large number who have died and that is terrible. It is something we all have to suffer with.”

Carl XVI Gustaf told Swedes in his annual Christmas address that it was “traumatic” for the relatives of the nearly 8,000 people who have died from Covid-19 not to be able to say goodbye. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)
Carl XVI Gustaf told Swedes in his annual Christmas address that it was “traumatic” for the relatives of the nearly 8,000 people who have died from Covid-19 not to be able to say goodbye. (Photo by Michael Campanella/Getty Images)

The Swedish Government made headlines around the world when it broke with the mainstream guidance on how to combat coronavirus, refusing to impose a formal lockdown in the early months of the outbreak, and not recommending the use of face masks for its citizens.

The country’s example had previously been championed by opponents of lockdowns, who cited how Sweden’s schools and economy remained open.

Initially, health experts in the country had argued that, by building up “herd immunity” to coronavirus over the summer months, Sweden would be spared from a costly second wave of cases and deaths as winter set in.

But the opposite appears to be transpiring.

Sweden has reported around 17 times more deaths from Covid-19 in the last month than both Norway and Finland - each of which has around half of Sweden’s population.

Last week, officials in the capital, Stockholm, appealed to the Swedish Government for help after the city, and other regions around the country, began to run out of available intensive care beds.

“We need help,” Bjorn Eriksson, the director of healthcare for the Stockholm region, told a news conference.

Sweden’s Scandinavian neighbours have offered the country medical assistance to deal with its surging cases.

In a break with its approach over the summer, Sweden’s government has now tightened restrictions on public gatherings while high schools have switched to distance learning.

Asked if he was afraid of getting coronavirus, the 74-year-old king said: “Lately, it has felt more noticeable. It has crept closer and closer. That’s not what you want.”

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