'Face' of Sweden's virus response immortalised in tattoo

Stockholm (AFP) –


While Sweden's softer approach to the new coronavirus has drawn international attention, the country's state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has become a household name for Swedes and on Monday, his face was immortalised in a tattoo.

Strange tattoos are plentiful around the world, but you'd probably still be hard pressed to find one of a star epidemiologist.

But on Monday, 32-year-old admirer Gustav Lloyd Agerblad from Stockholm had a portrait of Tegnell's stern-looking face permanently inked on his left arm.

"I like to have tattoos that represent something for me and, I mean, this COVID-19 will be a part of my life, for the rest of my life," Agerblad told AFP while reclining in the tattoo parlour's chair.

"So I wanted to have the Swedish face of the crisis on my arm," he added.

Both Agerblad and tattoo artist Zashay Tastas were surprised by the interest shown by local and international media, who turned up at the small parlour in Stockholm's Sodermalm district on Monday to document the inking.

Agerblad said he was inspired to get the tattoo after Tastas advertised the design for a temporary rub-on tattoo on Instagram.

"I've been drawing people whose profiles I like, and he was one of them, and I just made it spontaneously," Tastas told AFP.

Sweden has not imposed the extraordinary lockdown measures seen across Europe, instead urging people to take responsibility for social distancing and follow official recommendations.

The strategy has come under scrutiny both in Sweden and abroad.

Giving updates at daily press briefings, Tegnell, the state epidemiologist at Sweden's Public Health Agency, has come to represent the Swedish approach, which has remained steadfast even as other countries have opted for much more restrictive measures.

The soft-spoken but firm Tegnell often comes across as unfazed amid the criticism.

A growing number of supporters have also put his face on tee-shirts and wall-prints.

A Facebook group called "We support Anders Tegnell & co", referring to the epidemiologist and the public health agency, has garnered some 85,000 members, while another called "Anders Tegnell Fan Club" has more than 29,000 members.

Asked about the tattoo last week by newspaper GP, Tegnell laughed and simply said Agerblad would have to "take responsibility" for the tattoo himself.