King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has denounced his country’s relaxed COVID-19 policy, blaming it for the high death toll among the elderly.
“I believe we have failed,” the king said in a special Christmas broadcast that will air on December 21. “We have had a large number of deaths and that is terrible. That is something that brings us all suffering.”
Though Sweden has more deaths (7,800) per capita than its lockdown-embracing Nordic neighbors, the country’s death toll is still lower than Britain, Italy, Spain or France, “which have all opted for lockdowns,” as reported by Reuters.
According to The Associated Press, however, Sweden has adopted stricter COVID-19 measures due to the recent spike in cases, though it resisted a full-scale lockdown.
“Sweden is tightening nationwide coronavirus restrictions by requiring many people to work from home and reducing the number who can gather in restaurants, shops and gyms starting next week, but the government decided against ordering the country’s first full lockdown to control a recent spike in virus cases, the prime minister said Friday,” reported the outlet.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that the situation remains “very serious” regarding the country’s healthcare system while noting that lockdowns would be a tremendous burden on the population.
“We believe that a lockdown is a burden for the population,” Lofven said. “We are following our strategy.”
Face masks will soon be mandatory on public transportation while bars and restaurants will now have a cutoff time to stop selling alcohol. Schools will also implement distanced education.
Earlier this year, Sweden’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, expressed skepticism that face masks were enough to halt the spread of the coronavirus, arguing that it would create a “very dangerous” sense of security.
“It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19,” he said, noting that countries with mask mandates were still seeing spikes in COVID-19.
“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place,” he said. “But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake.”
According to the CDC, cloth masks are an effective shield against the spread of COVID-19:
This review included two case studies out today, one from JAMA, showing that adherence to universal masking policies reduced SARS-CoV-2 transmission within a Boston hospital system, and one from CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), showing that wearing a mask prevented the spread of infection from two hair stylists to their customers in Missouri.
Additional data in today’s MMWR showed that immediately after the White House Coronavirus Task Force and CDC advised Americans to wear cloth face coverings when leaving home, the proportion of U.S. adults who chose to do so increased, with 3 in 4 reporting they had adopted the recommendation in a national internet survey.
In the early stages of the pandemic here in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, argued against wearing masks before reversing that position several weeks later. Fauci, however, maintains that he was simply following CDC guidelines to preserve PPE.