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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.
However, Sweden has taken less restrictive precautions otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
“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.