Sweden's king thinks his nation's relatively lax approach to COVID has backfired. "I think we have failed," said Carl XVI Gustaf in a year-end assessment, reports the BBC. Sweden has fared worse than its Scandinavian neighbors with about 350,000 cases and 7,800 deaths, the vast majority of those deaths among people 70 and older. During the pandemic, Sweden has not mandated lockdowns, masks, or social distancing, relying instead on people's common sense and civic duty. The result is that "we have a large number who have died, and that is terrible," says the 74-year-old king. Gustaf has a largely ceremonial role, and Reuters sees his comments as a "rare intervention" into how the nation is run.
The king is not alone in his sentiment. "Of course the fact that so many have died can't be considered as anything other than a failure," Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told reporters. Gustaf's son, Prince Carl Philip, and daughter-in-law, Princess Sofia, have tested positive for the coronavirus. "Lately, it has felt more obvious, it has crept closer and closer," says the king of the virus' reach, per Australia's ABC. "That's not what you want." (Meanwhile, Sweden's capital isn't getting much daylight this month.)