Call for lockdown rise in Sweden: report

Calls for a national lockdown in Sweden, which stands out from other countries by opposing such moves, are mounting amid a deadly new wave of the virus.

Officials in Sweden are now weighing their options to enter a coronavirus lockdown after dodging initial temporary shutdowns during the pandemic’s first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Bjorn Eriksson, a regional health director, said Tuesday that Stockholm’s intensive care units (ICU) have “well above 100 percent capacity,” the New York Times reported.

Earlier this year, the country showed alternative options for managing the pandemic without shutting down businesses, allowing much of normal life to continue despite the ever-spreading virus.

The Times interviewed people in a Stockholm cafe who were not wearing masks; the people noted that masks were not recommended by their government’s health officials.

But as the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations rise, questions are again being raised whether Sweden should introduce more restrictions – and whether it should have done so sooner.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said on Monday that experts had underestimated the impact of the second wave of the virus.

His comments were the first case of a Swedish official calling into question the country’s national health service, led by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, to address the pandemic.

“I don’t think most in the profession saw a second wave coming,” Lofven told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, according to the Times.

On Monday, officials sent text alerts to warn people to limit Christmas gatherings. Bars and businesses are prohibited from serving alcohol after 10 p.m.

Swedish law prohibits the government from issuing injunctions at home or punishing violations of recommendations with fines.

The country’s schools have remained open to children under the age of 16, although some schools are now closing due to reports of virus outbreaks.

While some critics are pushing for tougher measures to stem the spread of the virus, the government is drafting emergency laws that give officials the power to order lockdowns and shut down businesses, citing public health emergencies.