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Offbeat Covid-19. Less bans, more recommendations: Sweden sticks to its very singular course

14:50  29 october  2020
14:50  29 october  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Des Suédois à un arrêt de bus dans la ville universitaire d’Uppsala, près de Stockholm. Le port du masque n’est pas obligatoire en Suède, ni même recommandé. © EPA / MAXPPP Swedes at a bus stop in the university town of Uppsala, near Stockholm. Wearing a mask is not compulsory in Sweden, nor even recommended.

A minimum of prohibitions, but a maximum of recommendations, very popular with the population. Since the spring, Sweden has stuck to its original strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. For a mixed result, but in a rather peaceful context.

We must wring our necks at the clichés that stick, since the spring, to the way Sweden manages the coronavirus pandemic. No, the country is not in laissez-faire and it is not seeking collective immunity through the widespread spread of the virus, at the cost of thousands of deaths of elderly and / or sick people. And no, the Swedish authorities are not doing everything well when their counterparts are floundering.

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The truth of the numbers? With 5,918 deaths from Covid-19 per 10 million inhabitants, Sweden has one of the highest death rates in Europe, ahead of France and far ahead of its Norwegian and Finnish neighbors. But it is doing better than Belgium or Spain, which has severely confined its population for weeks.

"We gave priority to recommendations"

The virus has killed a lot in Swedish nursing homes, where it has brought to light a reality shared elsewhere in Europe: the lack of preparation, of protective equipment and above all of personnel ... We have failed to protect the elderly, recognized at the end of September the Swedish epidemiologist Jonas Ludvigsson. But I don't know if it would have been any different with containment.

Since the spring, Sweden has done simply differently, with this culture which combines sacrosanct individual freedom and very strong social discipline. The authorities prohibit little, even if gatherings of more than 50 people have still been prohibited for seven months and visits to nursing homes were not reinstated until the beginning of October.

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On the other hand, the authorities advise a lot: hygiene, distance, teleworking, limitation of contacts including family, isolation at the slightest cold ... Above all, they are listened to. Several surveys show that 80% of Swedes comply with the prescriptions.

We favored recommendations. And we tried to keep them over time. In other countries, they change from week to week. It’s very difficult to know what to do, ”said Jonas Ludvigsson.

A country going against the grain

Against the grain, Sweden continues to remain one of the few countries in the world that does not recommend wearing a mask. The Swedish Public Health Agency considers that its effectiveness is not sufficiently proven and people, once masked, pay less attention with the most effective barrier gestures: distancing, repeated hand washing, limitation of contact ...

Even if the curve of new cases has started to rise again since mid-September, a change in strategy is not on the agenda. Vaccine or not, the virus is here for a long time, it is a marathon, not a sprint, pleads the Public Health Agency for which it is a question of creating a situation where we can live ( sa) life in a fairly normal way given the restrictions.

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