King Carl XVI Gustaf: ‘We need to listen to the advice of our expert authorities’

Swedish health authorities estimate that the number of coronavirus cases will rise in the near future. “We are going to see more cases in the coming weeks, more cases in intensive care and more deaths.

We must be prepared for that. The main thing now is to flatten the curve as much as possible,” Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told reporters at the agency’s daily press conference.

Although most people get only mild symptoms, health authorities are concerned that if too many need hospital care at the same time, it will place immense pressure on already strained hospitals. So Sweden’s strategy is based on trying to slow down the infection rate as much as possible.

What precautions should you take in Sweden?
Swedes, like people in many other countries, have been stockpiling toilet paper, leaving many supermarket shelves empty. But there is no risk of the country running out of toilet paper, The Local has been told.

King Carl XVI Gustaf spoke about the coronavirus outbreak at an extraordinary meeting with ministers of a slimmed-down (in order to avoid having too many people in the room at once) Swedish cabinet. He said:

“The coronavirus has put our country in a difficult situation. Many are worried: for their health, for their relatives, for their livelihood. We are in a situation that requires taking responsibility for oneself and others. But difficult situations such as this, also offer an opportunity, the opportunity to bring our the best in ourselves. As a country, and as fellow human beings,” he said, thanking people in Sweden.

“We all have our own responsibility to avoid contributing to the spread of infection or to avoid becoming infected ourselves,” he added. “We need to listen to the advice of our expert authorities. Avoid meetings that may have been scheduled. This applies in particular to the elderly and to other people who, for various reasons, are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they are infected.”

You can read the King’s full speech in Swedish here.

Swedish truck maker Scania is halting production at most of its European production plants on Wednesday next week, after major disruptions to its supplier and logistics chain. Service workshops and parts centre are to remain open, and other units are scheduled to resume operation after two weeks.

The move affects staff in Sweden, the Netherlands and France. Scania said it was “in close dialogue with the union representatives in order to jointly address the situation”.

Scania president and CEO Henrik Henriksson said in a statement: “The management and employee representatives both highly appreciate the state support measures that are now being made available in the countries where our staff now temporarily will lack work.”

Sweden confirmed two new deaths linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The first patient was described as elderly with several underlying health conditions by regional health authorities in Södermanland. The second, the first fatality in the Skåne region, was described as a woman in her 80s. She also had underlying health conditions and was seriously ill when she arrived at hospital, where she tested positive.

“We know that the elderly and especially elderly people with other underlying illnesses get the most seriously ill from COVID-19. This is a sad reminder of how important it is that we protect these groups from infection,” Region Skåne infectious disease doctor Eva Melander said in a statement.

How you can help others in Sweden during the coronavirus outbreak
Total number of confirmed cases: 1297

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 17th:

Sweden halts international travel into the country following an EU decision. The entry ban comes into effect on March 19th and will be in force for 30 days. It can be extended, but the Swedish government said in a statement that “it is an exceptional measure, which should not last longer than needed”.

Swedish citizens and residents will still be able to return to Sweden, according to the decision. The entry ban will not apply to people who can demonstrate a particularly important reason to travel to Sweden, for example “diplomats, people in need of international protection and people who are to perform necessary functions in Sweden, such as healthcare staff and people transporting goods to Sweden”.

Nor will the decision, which is based on an EU agreement, apply to EU or EEA citizens.

More regions in Sweden outside of the big cities are starting to see signs of community infection, said the Public Health Agency’s epidemiologist Anders Tegnell in the authority’s daily update. But the numbers of confirmed cases is “just the tip of the iceberg” in Sweden and the rest of the world, he added.

The vast majority of infected patients in Sweden have had only mild symptoms, but 12 people in total have been treated in intensive care. Seven patients have died after testing positive for the virus, all of whom are described as elderly, and Tegnell reiterated how important it is that everyone helps protect vulnerable groups. “This means everything for how this epidemic develops. If we can keep this group healthy for as long as possible it will make a huge difference for the strain on Swedish society and healthcare,” he said.

Several community initiatives have been launched across Sweden to help risk groups with for example their food shopping, so that they are able to limit their direct contact with other people and stay at home. The Local is listing some of them in this article, but please help us keep adding to the list.

Sweden is recommending all senior high schools (gymnasie level, children aged over 16) to close, starting tomorrow, and introduce distance learning so that students can keep studying. The decision also applies to universities and municipal adult education (komvux).

Schools for younger children are not closing at this stage, but Sweden is preparing to make such a decision if necessary, said Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

Swedish rail operator SJ’s trains will run at reduced capacity from today. Most routes will see a reduction of 25 percent, reports Swedish news agency TT, with traffic on the main routes dropping from approximately one train an hour or more to every other hour or once an hour in the morning and afternoon.

SJ said affected passengers would get their money back or be offered to change their departure.

The decision applies until the end of the month for now. It was made because of several staff members having to stay at home, either because they are self-quarantining, or because they are following Swedish authorities’ recommendations to stay at home even if you have only very mild symptoms of illness. Some are also staying at home because their children’s preschools or schools have been closed over the virus.

Stockholm’s public transport operator SL has also introduced measures aimed at reducing the spread of infection.

Passengers have been advised to get on buses at the back door (usually reserved for passengers getting off, and people with pushchairs) to avoid close contact with the driver, and to spread out through the vehicle. The company also said it would “intensify” cleaning procedures, and urged people who are sick not to use public transport.

Badly-affected airlines will receive state support in order to get through the economic problems caused by the outbreak. In a deal between the Danish and Swedish governments, SAS has been guaranteed three billion kronor in state support.

Hospitals are preparing to cope with an anticipated higher demand for intensive care places and protective equipment. In Stockholm, the region plans to increase its 90 intensive care spaces by 50 percent.

“At the moment we have no problem dealing with the patients who need intensive care due to the coronavirus as well as our other patients. How long this lasts depends on how quickly the numbers increase,” Elda Sparrelid, who is a head doctor in the Stockholm region, told the TT newswire.

“We can increase the number of intensive care spaces by 50 percent – we have given that as an assignment to all hospitals – and then we can successively increase the capacity to around twice as much as the current capacity.”

Sweden confirms its eighth death linked to the coronavirus on Tuesday. The patient was described by regional health authorities in Södermanland as elderly and with underlying health conditions.

Total number of confirmed cases: 1167

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 16th:

The Swedish parliament will cut the number of members present in the chamber from 349 to only 55. The decision has been agreed to by all parties, and means that from March 18th until the end of the month the parties will be represented by: 16 Social Democrat MPs, 11 Moderate MPs, 10 Sweden Democrat MPs, five Centre Party MPs, four Left Party MPs and three each for the Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens.

The move is meant to ensure that parliament is able to continue to operate even if a large number of MPs were to fall ill. The decision currently applies until March 30th but can be extended. MPs not present during votes will still be working, but will perform their duties in other ways, said the speaker of parliament.

Stockholmers in particular are urged to work from home if they can, according to new guidelines from Sweden’s Public Health Agency. This is because there is now a so-called community infection in Sweden (when the virus is spreading inside the country, rather than only linked to international travel), in particular in the Stockholm area.

“We’re now in a situation where (working from home) can make a difference, especially in the Stockholm region,” Public Health Agency epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a press conference.

Three elderly patients have died after testing positive for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The patients passed away at Södersjukhuset, Danderyd Hospital and the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, said Stockholm health authorities. A fourth fatality, also an elderly patient with underlying health condition, was reported by the Sörmland region south of Stockholm on Monday afternoon.

“Our thoughts are with their loved ones. We know from international experience that the elderly and in particular elderly people with other underlying health conditions suffer the most serious consequences of COVID-19. These patients, too, follow that pattern,” said infectious disease doctor Per Follin.

This brings Sweden’s total number of fatalities to six, including five in Stockholm and one in Västa Götaland.

Swedish postal service Postnord warns that it will have to halt deliveries to and from many countries as a result of reduced transport capacity due to cancelled flights. It says it can only accept deliveries to EU countries, Australia, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Canada, Liechtenstein, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, United Kingdom, South Korea, United States and Åland, but that it make take longer than usual.

The Swedish government announces plans for what could amount to a 300 billion kronor ($31 billion) crisis package to help struggling businesses in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. This includes proposals for:

Short-term layoffs, where employers’ wage costs could be halved but the employee would still receive more than 90 percent of their salary, and the state would step in to cover the difference.
The central government would take over sick pay responsibility in April and May.
Making it possible for companies to defer paying in employers’ social security contributions, preliminary tax on salaries and value-added tax that are reported monthly or quarterly.
The proposals, which come in addition to other previously announced measures such as scrapping the first day of unpaid sick leave (karensdag), are based on a deal between the ruling Social Democrat-Green coalition and the Centre and Liberal parties, and will be presented to parliament on March 19th.

Total confirmed cases: 1,059

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 15th:

A third person dies in Sweden from the coronavirus. The elderly patient arrived at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital for an emergency that did not require intensive care. While the patient was being treated, they tested positive for the coronavirus. A total of four patients were in intensive care in Stockholm on Sunday.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven tells a press conference there are no imminent plans to close Sweden’s borders.

Sweden’s foreign ministry the previous day urged against non-essential travel to anywhere in the world, but Sweden’s Public Health Agency clarifies that the move has less to do with the risk of spreading infection and more to do with the risk of ending up in a situation where it is impossible or harder to get home.

Scandinavian Airlines announce plans to temporarily lay off up to 10,000 staff.

Total confirmed cases: 992 (updated at 2pm)

March 14th:

A second person dies in Sweden from the coronavirus. The 85 year-old woman died at Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg. The woman had been cared for in intensive care for some time and also had other diseases.

Denmark closes its borders to halt the spread of the coronavirus. People who live and work in Denmark will still be allowed in, including cross-border workers based in Sweden, but people based in Sweden will no longer be able to use Copenhagen Airport (other than for inbound flights in order to return to Sweden).

Several private initiatives are under way to help people who have to self-isolate at home with their food shop. Examples include the social media hashtag #DinGranneHär (#YourNeighbourHere).

Total cases: 942 (updated at 2pm)

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 13th:

Many hospitals have introduced bans on external visitors, including all those in Skåne and Kalmar regions, and the Karolinska University hospital in Stockholm.

The 1177 healthcare helpline introduces a separate line for those with symptoms of the coronavirus, after receiving a hugely increased number of calls.

The Stockholm stock exchange’s OMXS index recovers 2.6 percent in early morning trading, after plummeting 11.1 percent on Thursday — a historically sharp fall in line with other European markets.

The government appoints a coronavirus coordinator: Anders Ferbe will be in charge of managing tasks related to the impact of the virus on the economy.

The answers to your most-asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
The Swedish Central Bank, the Riksbank, says it will lend 500 billion kronor to struggling companies during the coronavirus crisis. “The aim is to maintain the supply of credit to Swedish companies,” says the bank.

Airlines SAS and Norwegian cancel flights between Scandinavia and the US in the wake of Donald Trump’s travel ban, with Norwegian temporarily laying off half its staff.

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven urges Swedes to avoid international travel amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sweden cancels its upcoming scholastic aptitude test (högskoleprovet) which would have seen 70,000 people sit the test in the hope of using it to get into university. Sweden’s minister for higher education and research, Matilda Ernkrans, says the authorities are looking at how to handle autumn admissions.

Total cases: 775 (updated at 2pm)

Due to a change in how testing is carried out in order to best prioritise resources in the healthcare sector, the actual number of cases in Sweden may be higher than the confirmed figure.

March 12th:

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Gotland means that the virus has now spread to all of Sweden’s regions.

Nordic gym chain SATS announces it is closing all its clubs as a precautionary measure, effective from noon on March 12th and initially two weeks onwards. Membership will be put on hold, writes SATS.

In the evening, around 20 prisoners in Norrtälje start a riot, linked to new restrictions introduced because of the coronavirus and including limits on visitors.

Stockholm health authorities announce that only elderly people and patients in hospital will be tested for the coronavirus from now on. This is part of a new national strategy aimed at using resources in the most effective way. Other people who experience symptoms are instead directed to national health line 1177 and are urged to stay at home, not go to work, and limit social contact.

US President Donald Trump announces a travel ban from European countries in the Schengen area, which does not include the UK or Ireland, to take effect 11.59pm on March 13th.

Sweden’s education minister meets school and university bosses to discuss further measures. Denmark and Norway are both closing schools temporarily, but Sweden’s Public Health Agency has so far warned that such a decision would have consequences for parents working in essential jobs such as healthcare. In the evening, the education minister says there will be no decision yet to close schools at a national level, but heads of schools will be given increased decision-making ability to choose how they address the spread of the virus, for example by moving to online classes or changing the length and timing of the school year.

The Public Health Agency updates its guidelines to urge anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus or a cold (for example a fever and cough), regardless of whether or not you have been travelling, to stay at home and limit social contact until you have been symptom-free for at least two days.

Total cases: 620 (updated 3.40pm)

March 11th:

The first fatality linked to the coronavirus in Sweden (and the Nordics) is confirmed. The patient was elderly with underlying health conditions and dies at a hospital in southern Stockholm. Doctors say they were unable to trace the patient’s infection to overseas travel.

Sweden’s government moves to temporarily scrap the first unpaid day of sick leave, meaning that people who take leave from work due to sickness will receive sick pay from the moment their absence begins. The decision comes into effect immediately and is set to last for a month and a half.

The government also says it will follow a request from the Public Health Agency to ban all public events for over 500 people.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry advises against non-essential travel to the Austrian state of Tyrol, while US President Donald Trump announces a travel ban to the US from all countries in the Schengen area, which includes Sweden.

Blekinge and Dalarna report their first cases of the coronavirus, while further cases are confirmed in several other regions, most in Västra Götaland (37), Skåne (35) and Stockholm (26).

Police stop carrying out routine breathalyser tests for drink-driving, but will still test those they suspect are intoxicated, although police officers who belong to at-risk groups will not carry out any tests.

Total cases: 497

March 10th:

Swedish health authorities upgrade the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden to “very high”, the highest possible level on a five-point scale. This is due to signs of community spread in the Stockholm and Västra Götaland regions.

The Public Health Agency advises members of the public to avoid non-essential visits to hospitals and care homes, and reiterates the importance of people who work with vulnerable groups staying away from work if they have any symptoms such as a cough or fever.

Sweden’s foreign ministry extends its travel recommendations to advise against all non-essential travel to all of Italy, the European country worst hit by the coronavirus.

Sweden’s first two instances of coronavirus patients needing intensive care are reported.

New cases are confirmed in Skåne (three), Halland (four), Örebro (one), Region Stockholm (60), Sörmland (one), Jämtland-Härjedalen (one) and Västra Götaland (15).

Total cases: 345

March 9th:

Five regions report their first cases: Halland (five), Norrbotten (one), Västerbotten (five), Sörmland (one) and Östergötland (one), all linked to northern Italy.

In Stockholm, the first case of a coronavirus patient with no known links to foreign travel or a previously confirmed case – a potential community infection – is reported at a major hospital.

Further cases are confirmed in Region Jönköping (two), Region Värmland (one), Västra Götaland (seven), Region Uppsala (three), Region Stockholm (32), making a total of 57 new confirmed cases in one day.

Total cases: 261

March 8th:

42 more cases are confirmed: one in Region Uppsala, five in Skåne, 12 in Västra Götaland, three in Region Örebro, seven in Region Värmland, and 14 in Region Stockholm.

The cases confirmed include one where the patient contracted the virus in the USA.

Total cases: 203

March 7th:

Sweden confirms 24 new cases: three in Skåne and 21 in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 161

March 6th:

The Foreign Ministry advises against all non-essential travel to northern Italy (the regions Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Trentino-Alto Adige, Aosta Valley, Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Marche and Tuscany) as well as to the town Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea until further notice.

A further 43 cases are confirmed: two in Västra Götaland, five in Region Skåne, one in Region Uppsala, eight in Region Värmland, five in Region Jönköping, one in Region Gävleborg and 21 in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 137

March 5th:

A further 42 coronavirus cases are confirmed: one in Västra Götaland, seven in Skåne, three in Region Värmland, two in Region Uppsala, one in Region Gävleborg (the first case in the region) and the remainder in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 94

March 4th:

The Public Health Agency announces that it will begin testing more people for the virus, including those who are showing symptoms after traveling abroad or who have been in close contact with confirmed cases.

22 new cases are discovered, 16 of them in Stockholm, two in Västra Götaland, one in Skåne, two in Region Värmland and one in Region Örebro. One of the Västra Götaland cases was contracted in Iran, while the others were all linked to travel to northern Italy.

Total cases: 52

Coronavirus: What precautions should you take in Sweden?

March 3rd:

The number of cases doubles from 15 to 30, including the first case in Skåne, one new case in Region Jönköping, three new cases in Västra Götaland, all of which were linked to travel in northern Italy. Ten new cases also confirmed in Region Stockholm.

Jönköping’s health authorities tell The Local that the first patient who contracted the virus in January is fully recovered.

Total cases: 30

March 2nd:

Swedish health authorities upgrade the risk of the virus spreading in Sweden from “low” to “moderate”, which is the middle level on a five-point scale.

The Foreign Ministry advises against all travel to all of Iran, and Sweden becomes the first country in the world to suspend Iranian airline Iran Air’s permit in Sweden, in order to halt all direct flights from Iran.

Another case of the coronavirus is confirmed in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 15

March 1st:

One more case is confirmed in Västra Götaland, linked to travel in northern Italy.

Total cases: 14

UPDATE: What you need to know about the coronavirus in Sweden (paywall-free)

February 29th:

Two more cases confirmed: One in Västra Götaland (linked to travel to Iran) and one in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 13

February 28th:

Four more cases are confirmed: two in Stockholm region, one in Uppsala (contracted in Iran) and one in Jönköping (contracted in Italy).

Total cases: 11

February 27th:

Five more cases confirmed: three in Västra Götaland (two linked to the previous case and one linked to travel to northern Italy) one in Region Uppsala (a patient who had recently travelled to Germany), and one in Region Stockholm.

Total cases: 7

February 26th:

A second case of coronavirus is confirmed in Gothenburg, Västra Götaland. The patient had recently travelled to northern Italy.

Coronavirus: What are the rules in Sweden for re-booking travel?

February 25th:

The risk of the virus spreading in Sweden is upgraded from “very low” to “low” by the Public Health Agency.

February 2nd:

Eleven Swedish citizens are flown home from China on an evacuation flight from Wuhan.

January 31st:

Sweden’s first case of coronavirus is confirmed in Jönköping, in a patient who had recently travelled from China.

January 30th:

Scandinavian airline SAS cancels flights to and from mainland China. Source:thelocal