Coronavirus in Sweden, Denmark and Norway close borders (and Stockholm’s economy sinks)

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Denmark is Norway they will reopen their borders from 15 June, so as to allow free movement with neighboring countries, including Iceland. But this easing of travel restrictions it will not affect the Swedes, for now excluded from the restarting of tourist activity throughout Scandinavia. “We cannot open everything suddenly, because we would put at risk everything we have achieved,” explained the Norwegian premier from Oslo on Friday Erna Solberg, announcing the decision, simultaneously with the press conference held in Copenhagen by his Danish counterpart, Puts Frederiksen. A motivated exclusion with the much higher rate of infection and death registered in Sweden, which with more than 4,300 deaths has had so far almost four times the number of victims of all other Northern European countries from Covid-19 put together (here all the data).

The fame of untori

And so after having persisted for almost three months to keep everything open, even (unique in all Europe) their Swedes, they find themselves held up as unectors worldwide. Because the decision of neighboring countries has been joined by that of Cyprus, which authorized the resumption of all direct air connections with the Scandinavian capitals, with the exception of Stockholm. A double diplomatic slap that opened the news, urging a position taken by the Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde: “The infections are slowing down – he said, meeting the foreign press -, the ICU patients are decreasing significantly and the death curve has been flattened”.

The effect of self-restraints

The minister also recalled that although there have been no real closings in Sweden, many activities have slowed down drastically. The invitation to limit social contacts led for example 58% of Swedes no longer frequent restaurants, bars or cinemas, and 69% cut back on matches, as a recent survey revealed. The appeal not to travel and travel caused instead a blocking of domestic flights due to lack of passengers, while trains continue to run 90% empty.

No to travel abroad

This recommendation will be valid until next July 15th, and would still have led to the postponement of holidays abroad until that date, even if Denmark and Norway had opened their borders. IS However, it is possible that the Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen to Sweden will be opened even before. “We are examining the possibility of regional solutions,” said Ann Linde, recalling that the rate of spread and lethality in the Danish capital is also higher than that of the neighboring Swedish region of Skane.

Commission of inquiry

The decision by Denmark and Norway to keep their borders closed to Swedish citizens has given new strength to the internal debate in Sweden on how Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s red-green government handled the health emergency. The two largest Swedish opposition parties have called for the establishment by the summer of one independent commission of inquiry, to ascertain whether the strategy followed was the most suitable. The government is not prejudiced against, but asks to wait for the pandemic to end. Two above all the controversial aspects on which it is asked to light: the high rate of victims, which places Sweden in sixth place worldwide in the number of deaths since Covid-19 in relation to the population. And the management of rest homes for the elderly, where three quarters of the deaths occurred.

No flock immunity

Anders Tegnell, the epidemiologist at the head of the Swedish Public Health Agency who decided to experiment with a “gentle mitigation” strategy of contagion, continues to defend the reasons for his choice: “It is a public health issue to allow people to maintain normal lives as much as possibleHe said in a recent interview with Financial Times. «Nothing to do with the lockdown has scientific evidence. ” It is a big mistake to stop everything, hoping for a vaccine, he added: «It will take much longer than we think. And in the end, we don’t know how effective it will be. It is another reason to implement a sustainable policy “. For the epidemiologist only in a year or two we will be able to judge which strategy has proven most effective against the pandemic. In the meantime, however, the illusion of being able to achieve “flock immunity” has quickly disappeared: in the latest survey carried out by the Agency in the Stockholm area, the main outbreak of the infection, on May 20, only 7% of the population tested positive for the virus.

Braking economy

In the meantime, however, the slowdown in activities has also caused one in Sweden contraction in the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (estimated at -7% on the whole 2020) and a increase in unemployed (which could rise to 10% by the end of the year). They are certainly better than the other countries that have opted for total closure, even those of Northern Europe, but they will not be enough to save an economy like the Swedish one that it is 50% dependent on exports. So much so that large Swedish multinationals such as Volvo, Electrolux and Scania have already laid off thousands of employees.



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