Madrid Desk, May 26 (efe-epa).- Authorities in Sweden on Tuesday defended their less aggressive tactics to contain the coronavirus pandemic despite suffering a significantly higher fatality rate than its neighbors and other countries with similar population sizes.
Elsewhere in Europe, German officials were mulling easing travel restrictions to some 31 European countries, including former hotspots in the popular tourist Mediterranean destinations of Italy and Spain, which declared a 10-day mourning period to commemorate the tens of thousands of people who have died from Covid-19.
Sweden’s government on Tuesday stood by its relatively soft approach to containing Covid-19 despite registering a higher fatality rate than its neighbors and coming under increased criticism.
Ann Linde, the foreign minister, said the idea that Sweden had done nothing to confront the virus was “a myth,” adding there were many restrictions in public life.
None of the Nordic nations ordered their citizens to stay at home but Sweden’s neighbors did close down much of their public life while Stockholm decided to focus on protecting high risk groups.
Linde said Sweden’s strategy was essentially the same as other countries, and was designed to prevent the healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed while minimizing the damage to the economy and jobs.
Sweden has a Covid-19 mortality rate of 39,26 per 100,000 inhabitants, four times higher than Denmark, eight times that of Finland and nine times that of Norway.
Linde dismissed comparisons with other countries, saying there were too many variables, such as individual coronavirus timelines and the way other governments presented its death toll (Sweden includes care homes deaths — which account for 70 percent overall —, unlike some others.)
Criticism of Stefan Lovfen’s Social Democrat-Green Party government has been mounting in recent weeks, including accusations it was in pursuit of herd immunity in the population, something authorities deny.
The conservative Moderate Party has called for a review of the government’s handling of the crisis.
Despite this, recent polling shows government support is higher than last year.
Germany is considering lifting recommendations against traveling to 31 European countries in a bid to restore the EU’s open internal borders, many of which were closed in March to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Starting on 15 June, travel restrictions that were imposed in mid-March with the closure of the EU’s external borders and a ban on non-essential travel within the bloc will be replaced with advice that is specific to each country or region.
At a meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet will discuss the foreign ministry’s proposal to lift the restrictions for all 27 EU member states, plus the United Kingdom and four other countries that are part of the European Economic Area (EEA) – Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.
Both the chancellor Angela Merkel and the foreign minister Heiko Maas have championed a cautious resumption of travel between countries with similar epidemiological conditions in time for the summer tourist high season in order to limit the already hugely damaging effects the lockdowns have had on the tourism sector.
Border controls between Germany and Denmark, Switzerland and Austria, in place since mid-March, have already been relaxed.
The Spanish government on Tuesday announced a 10 day period of national mourning in remembrance of the more than 26,800 who have died from Covid-19 in one of Europe’s worst-affected countries.