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Sweden: Europe’s lockdown exception

Sweden is one of the few European countries not in full lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sweden is one of the few European countries not in full lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic. © Reuters / France 24

With billions across the world under lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, one country stands almost alone. In Sweden, daily life has been continuing largely as normal as authorities have taken a radically different approach to tackling the virus.

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Though gatherings of more than 50 were banned on Sunday, down from 500 previously, restaurants, bars and shops are still serving customers.

And while high schools and universities have closed their doors, the country is one of the few places in western Europe where primary schools remain open.

Sweden has recorded more than 4,400 coronavirus cases and 180 deaths. But the government has asked only those who are sick or in at-risk groups to stay home

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has urged people to “take responsibility” by following health guidelines such as regular hand washing and to self-isolate if sick rather than enforce strict social distancing measures.

Polls have shown most Swedes support the government’s relaxed approach.

"We trust our government and trust the system in a way that other countries maybe don't as strongly, so maybe that also plays a part in why Sweden doesn't feel that it's necessary to put such forceful measures until the case worsens,” Stockholm resident Ida told AFP.

But there are signs of growing dissent amid fears Sweden could be exposing itself to extreme danger.

Last week, a group of senior Swedish healthcare officials sent a letter to the government calling for stronger measures.

"Our nation should not be the exception in Europe,” the letter said. “We request that our government takes action now!"

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