Swedes are rapidly losing faith in their country’s response to the pandemic, with even the King delivering a rare rebuke to those in charge.
Significantly more Swedes have gotten sick and died from Covid-19 than elsewhere in the Nordic region. And with Stockholm recently almost running out of intensive care beds, frustration levels are high.
“The Swedish people have suffered enormously in difficult conditions,” King Carl XVI Gustaf told state broadcaster SVT. When it comes to the strategy deployed in Sweden, he said, “I think we have failed.”
Much of the blame has been directed toward the chief architect of Sweden’s strategy, Anders Tegnell, its state epidemiologist. A poll published on Thursday showed that support for him and his employer has slumped over the past two months.
“Confidence is in a downward spiral,” said Nicklas Kallebring, an analyst at Ipsos.
Prime Minister Stefan Lofven also voiced his displeasure.
“The King observes, as we and many others have, that the fact that so many people have died cannot be seen as anything else than a failure,” Lofven told reporters in Stockholm on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Tegnell has continued to defend Sweden’s overall strategy of avoiding lockdowns. He also argues that there’s no real evidence that face masks work, and Swedes are among the only people left going about their daily lives largely mask-free, with shops, restaurants and gyms all still open.
In an interview with broadcaster TV4, Tegnell said no one can tell whether Sweden’s strategy has failed. He was responding to a report published earlier in the week that showed significant shortcomings in Sweden’s approach that led to excess deaths among the elderly.
“More or less all countries are struggling with this,” he said. But he also acknowledged that the situation in his home country is dire.
“We are beginning to approach breaking point in many different aspects,” he said. “I understand that health-care is having a very tough time now…the staff are worn out,” all of which means “that the pressure on care is becoming very, very great.”
Almost 8,000 Swedes have died of Covid-19. That compares with less than 1,000 in Denmark, about 480 in Finland and just over 400 in Norway.
In his interview with TV4, Tegnell said he was “surprised” by the intensity of the second wave of the pandemic.
“I think many, with me, are surprised that it has been able to come back so strongly,” he said.