risky bet of Sweden to fight against Covid-19

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Passers-by in the centre of Stockholm.

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While its nordic neighbours have been followed to Italy, Spain and France by ordering the closure of schools, restaurants and resorts, the Swedish population still has the possibility of tasting a dish on a terrace and to travel to their crowded ski resorts.

The crisis of the coronavirus been emptied of people every one of the usually crowded western capitals, with the exception of one: Stockholm.

While in cities like Paris, London or Madrid it is impossible to sit down in a restaurant, the local food in the capital of Sweden continue operating and receiving clients.

Also continue to open schools for young people under the age of 16 years, the gyms, clothing stores and even some popular ski resorts.

And is that the only measures that the government of the scandinavian country has taken in response to the pandemic of covid-19 is to prohibit the crowded public of more than 50 people, close the institutions of higher education, and to suggest to workers that work from home, if you can.

At the same time, the numbers of infected by coronavirus in Sweden continue to make progress.

According to the count of the Johns Hopkins University, Sweden had confirmed to 3,000 cases and 100 deaths in the Friday afternoon.

“The strategy of the Swedish government is to inhibit the spread of the virus, protecting vulnerable groups and not to overload the health care system, but at the same time, the government wants to reduce the economic consequences and (to protect) our industries with different stimulus packages, the Ministry of Finance,” he tells BBC World Maja Fjaestad, assistant minister of Health of Sweden.

A terrace in Stockholm.

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So lucia a terrace in the centre of Stockholm on the 26th of march. Meanwhile, the majority of european countries have implemented containment measures and ordered the closure of bars and restaurants.

Despite the fact that in countries like Spain and Italy are not few who regret not having acted sooner with more severity, Fjaestad explains that the european country with the bet by putting in appropriate actions at the right time” and that their policies to tackle the epidemic are based on the science.

“We maintain a close cooperation with the scientific community and with experts from the Public Health Agency”, added, before highlighting the importance for his country that both business and society continue to function.

A bet on “risky”

For the Danish Lars Christensen, a specialist in international economics, no doubt it is a bet “risky”.

Christensen points out that the swedes are putting more at risk the health of their population than other governments that have imposed restrictions too severe to freedom of movement.

“But, on the other hand, are risking less economically“he tells BBC World. “What both in terms of unemployment and production are you willing to risk to protect, maybe, a few citizens?”, questions.

Christensen added that if the government does not want to take risks, you can simply put the entire population in confinement, and implement travel restrictions to contain the outbreak, as have countries such as Italy and Spain, but warns that these measures have “costs tremendous economic“.

“We can see the rates of unemployment, companies in bankruptcy (…) that is, in large measure, the result of the policy of confinement (…). If this enables you to stop the virus and that the country is open before, then the cost may be worth it. However, I think that it is important that we address the many economic problems such as health, otherwise we’ll go bankrupt“.

The Swedish economy will suffer a heavy blow, “no matter what happens,” according to Christensen.

The coronavirus has caused a great commotion in the global economy, and even if there were no cases of covid-19 in Sweden, their economy would be impacted, as it is very exposed to international trade”.

The approach of South Korea

Christensen highlights the case of South Korea, where the restrictions are less strict than in Europe and that has not stopped him from flattening the curve of advance of the coronavirus.

Since march 8, when the number of infected already amounted to 7.134 in the asian country, the number of new cases started to decrease radically.

This, despite the fact that South Korea was one of the countries where more rapid spread of the disease.

Experts indicate that the success of south korea is mainly due to that their authorities have focused on detecting cases and isolating people affected: South Korea is one of the countries with the highest rate of testing in the world.

“It is important to make sure that the persons to be examinedas well as limiting personal contact”, states Christensen.

The mortality rate of the virus in South Korea is also one of the lowest globally.

“It’s only a matter of time”

Jehoiakim Rocklöv, professor of epidemiology and public health, University of Umea, in the north-east of Sweden, believes that the strategy of the government “is not wise.”

“I think that we should we should learn from the experience of other countries, but we have not obtained lessons from what is happening in Italy and Spain. We should learn from them, to be more strict in the implementation (of measures) and make sure that this does not become a public health catastrophe“.

Center of Seoul during the crisis of the coronavirus.

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The south Korean authorities have managed to flatten the curve of advance of the coronavirus without having implemented a strict confinement as did Italy.

In dialogue with BBC World, the epidemiologist ensures that it is only a matter of time until the Swedish authorities realize that his strategy “will not work”.

“But I would like to realize before because the measures that are taken will take several weeks to have any effect”.

Rocklöv account that the life in Umea continues almost without interruption. The Wednesday and reopened his gym that had been closed for several days and also been observed as the people still going to restaurants and makes trips to the ski resorts of the country.

“I think it’s only a small part of the population is aware of the problem and is concerned about the inaction (of the government),” says the professor and explains that this is due to that the Swedish society tends to have a high degree of confidence to their rulers.

Tourism in Sweden

While the tourism industry is completely paralyzed for weeks in the whole of Western Europe, Sweden and its busy ski resorts remain fully operational and open to the public.

The resort of Sälen, one of the most important in the country, it “open as usual“according to one of his workers, who did not want to be identified.

Ski resort Sälen during a competition.

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Sälen, one of the ski resorts most popular in Sweden, is still open to the public, while the rest of the continent the tourist activity comes to a standstill.

“We’ve had several cancellations, but we had reservations extra when Norway decided to close its ski resorts”.

Sälen is located very close to the border between Sweden and Norway. In fact, geographically, it is located closer to Oslo than to the Swedish capital.

The employee of the crowded station, said that until the 26th of march, the government had asked them to provide a closure.

“On Tuesday, the directors had a meeting with the government and took the decision to continue to open.”

The debate both in Sweden and in other nordic countries about what is the right approach to tackle the crisis of the coronavirus still giving you what to talk about.

The swedes have had a perspective more liberal than their neighbors, danes and norwegians. But for the time being it is not clear which model is more effective.

However, Christensen ensures that in the next few weeks will generate a big discussion between the scandinavian countries on the way various countries have handled the health crisis.

“The danes will look at the numbers of swedes, the swedes will look at the danes, and each society will determine who took the correct measures. And without a doubt you will judge that he did not“he concludes.

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