Swedes turn on government over relaxed coronavirus response

Opposition leaders abandon show of unity as public opinion swings

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist
Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell addresses press briefing
(Image credit: Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency/AFP/Getty)

Support for Sweden’s idiosyncratic coronavirus response is fading within the Scandinavian country, as scientists and MPs criticise the government’s laid-back reaction.

“Opposition lawmakers have quickly shifted from ‘rallying round the flag’ to distancing themselves from the government’s crisis response as the death rate from Covid-19 has spiked and voters have begun to lose faith in Sweden’s unique no-lockdown approach,” reports Politico.

The strategy was initially popular and still attracted majority support even as Sweden’s death toll outpaced that of its neighbours. But Swedes’ patience now appears to be running out, as the nation’s total number of coronavirus-related deaths hits 4,795, compared with 593 in Denmark and 239 in Norway, according to latest figures.

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A recent poll found that 45% of Swedes now have confidence in their government’s handling of the pandemic, compared with 65% in April, reports state broadcaster SVT.

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Last week, Sweden’s state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell appeared to admit that the lockdown-free strategy had been mistaken.

“If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he told Sveriges Radio.

However, Tegnell later said that he would make only minor changes. “The strategy is good,” he insisted, “but then there are always improvements one can make, especially if you look back over time.”

The leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Akesson, subsequently called for Tegnell to be replaced with a new state epidemiologist who would follow a more conventional course.

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