ÅLIDHEM – The total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Västerbotten is now 50, regional health officials said this afternoon. Nine patients are in the hospital, with five in intensive care. Infectious diseases specialist Gunilla Persson said that “the confirmed cases are from all over the county, which means that we have community transmission throughout Västerbotten.” Community transmission refers to when doctors no longer know from whom exactly patients have acquired the virus.
After Umeå Today yesterday reported on a new independent Facebook initiative to track the disease, Covid-19 – Statistical Collection, the group’s leaders put out a press release today calling on the general public to report their experiences with coronavirus, to add data to the statistical analysis.
“The more individuals who answer the survey from different geographical locations in Sweden,” said spokesperson Sinikka Engberg, “the more interesting interesting basis there is to work with.”
Yesterday afternoon, Umeå University virologist Fredrik Elgh told Umeå Today that coronavirus was “probably everywhere” in Västerbotten, and “especially in Umeå.”
The university announced today it is also leading a charge to track coronavirus and its effects. A team of European researchers led by computer science Professor Frank Dignum is offering governments new software called ASSOCC, which simulates how the virus might spread, affect economies, and incite violence and social polarization. Dignum’s team says it is working on an app for Swedish residents to report their daily movements and family conditions.
Meanwhile, Ålidhem health officials are strengthening their capacities to cope with the rising number of coronavirus cases. This morning, Ålidhem’s health clinic (hälsocentral) raised a yellow coronavirus assessment tent, similar to the one that appeared in front of the hospital’s emergency entrance last week. The tent allows clinicians to evaluate symptomatic patients, so that they do not have to enter the building and risk infecting visitors or staff. Until now, clinicians have been doing such evaluations in the open air, staff told Västerbottens-Kuriren.
Ålidhem is the only neighborhood in Umeå whose health clinic has such a tent. Karl-Gustav Forsberg, the clinic’s operations manager, told Umeå Today that in “Ålidhem we have primary care evenings and weekends. Therefore the tent is located there.”
Three out of four local businesses are directly affected by the coronavirus, Västerbotten’s Chamber of Commerce announced this afternoon. Such effects include “canceling new hires, stopping salary payments, taking out bank loans, reduced staffing and wages, shutting down, or, in the worst case, declaring bankruptcy.”
“For many people, when it comes to health, it’s not just about life and death,” CEO Anders Hjalmarsson said. “It’s about how people see the future, where they might risk losing their livelihood, or see their life’s work disappear.”
Umeå businesses are developing creative new solutions to handle the crisis. Blå Huset, a collection of companies based partly at Väven, announced today that they were offering Easter support packages for home delivery.
“You are supporting those for whom it is difficult to get out of the house for food or work,” said Blå Huset. Packages contain lunch boxes cooked by Blå Huset restaurants, cost 250 SEK, and are expected to be delivered on the Thursday before Easter. The packages can be ordered from the Väven restaurant Gotthards Krog.
After the national government recommended against gatherings above 50 people on Friday, Umeå Today reached out to popular Ålidhem night club Rouge and its partner restaurant Taco Bar, as well as sports complex IKSU, to ask how they will react to the decision.
Rouge and Taco Bar responded that “we are open as usual” for Thursday karaoke, as well as this coming weekend. The restaurant said it can still legally hold up to 500 people, “but the night club 50.”
IKSU said that its operation is “not so much” affected, because “we never collect more than 50 people in our training classes.” IKSU has started offering outdoor training classes, as well as online and social media-based live webcast training starting today.
Umeå residents, meanwhile, are responding creatively to the crisis. Umeå Today reader Giorgia Carassiti, an Erasmus international relations bachelor’s exchange student from northern Italy, said she watched yesterday as people put a surgical mask on the Rådhustorget’s Standing Man statue, by British artist Sean Henry.
“The statue symbolizes Umeå for most internationals,” Carassiti said. “Swedish are not really bothered by the virus, so I thought it was weird. They walk around a lot, and don’t really do social distancing. I think they still don’t perceive how serious the situation is, and could soon be, here.”
In Ålidhem, at Pedagoggränd, Malin Makinya, an Erasmus exchange student from Germany who studies political science with sociology and public law, hung a sign out her window reading “People before Borders / Solidarity in times of corona / #LeaveNoOneBehind”.
Makinya told Umeå Today that she was inspired by “an initiative fighting for safe passage for refugees,” so that “politicians will take action and evacuate the largest camps on the Greek islands.”
“It felt nice to take action and do something else than just listen to these bad developments,” she continued, “because right now, the discussion about the coronavirus is, in my personal opinion, very Eurocentric.”
Coronavirus information has now been made available online from the national government in many languages, including Amharic, Arabic, Dari, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, German, Kurmanji, Lule Sami, Mandarin, Meänkieli, North Sami, Pashto, Polish, Vlax Romani, Balkan Romani, Russian, Somali, Sorani, Spanish, South Sami, Thai, Tigrinya, and Turkish.