Sweden remains open as other countries lock down over coronavirus


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Sweden continues a more normal pace of life while other countries take extreme measures to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Sweden, a nation of 10 million people, has confirmed a total of 3,447 cases and 105 deaths. Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home if possible, as well as urge those over 70 to self-isolate.

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However, Sweden has taken less restrictive precautions otherwise.

FILE - People walk along the main pedestrian shopping street in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won't find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. (AP Photo/David Keyton, File)

FILE – People walk along the main pedestrian shopping street in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won’t find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. (AP Photo/David Keyton, File)

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, believes other nations have taken overly “drastic” measures, such as closing schools or limiting gatherings to 10 people.

In contrast, Swedish nightclubs and outdoor cafes remain open.  The country has limited public gatherings to 50 people,  a more modest restriction that takes effect Sunday.

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Officials have said keeping people physically and mentally healthy is another reason they’re keen to avoid rules that would keep people indoors for too long.

“The goal is to slow down the amount of new people getting infected so that health care gets a reasonable chance to take care of them. And that’s what we all do in every country in Europe,” Tegnell said.

He argues that Sweden’s less restrictive policies are more sustainable and effective, even if they are an “anomaly” during the pandemic.

FILE - People sit in a bar in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. People still sit at outdoor cafes in the center of Sweden's capital. Vendors still sell flowers. Teenagers still chat in groups in parks. Some still greet each other with hugs and handshakes. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won't find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. (AP Photo/David Keyton, File)

FILE – People sit in a bar in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. People still sit at outdoor cafes in the center of Sweden’s capital. Vendors still sell flowers. Teenagers still chat in groups in parks. Some still greet each other with hugs and handshakes. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won’t find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. (AP Photo/David Keyton, File)

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In contrast to multi-generational homes common in Mediterranean countries, more than half of Swedish households are made up of one person, which limits the risk of spread.

“We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumors,” Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said in a televised address to the nation last weekend. “No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility.”

A nationwide survey by Novus, a major polling company, found that a majority of Swedes watched and approved of the prime minister’s speech.

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“Nobody really knows what [measures] will be most effective,” said Dr. Emma Frans, a medical epidemiology researcher at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “I’m quite glad that I’m not the one making these decisions.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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