Sweden Takes Relaxed Approach to Restrictions

Scientists begin to pressure government on its pandemic policies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2020 11:20 AM CDT
Sweden Takes Relaxed Approach to Restrictions
Customers sit in a bar Wednesday in Stockholm, Sweden.   (AP Photo/David Keyton, File)

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 wouldn't find shops or restaurants open anyway. Authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home, if possible, and urged those over age 70 to self-isolate as a precaution. Yet compared to the lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, the AP reports, the government's response to the virus allows a liberal amount of personal freedom.

Standing at bars is banned, but restaurant customers can still be served at tables instead of having to take food to go. High schools and universities are closed, but preschools and primary schools are running classes in person. For now, the government maintains that citizens can be trusted to exercise responsibility for the greater good and will stay home if they experience any coronavirus symptoms. Victoria Holmgren, 24, praised the government’s handling of the crisis. "And it's partly because I don't think I could manage being inside the whole day," she said. But some scientists call the approach irresponsible. In an open letter to the government, some 2,000 academics urged greater transparency and more justification for its infection prevention strategy. One medical professor compared Sweden's handling of the virus to letting a kitchen fire burn with the intent of extinguishing it later. "That doesn't make any sense. And the danger, of course, is that it burns the whole house down," he said.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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