- City government meetings restructured; Norwegian Air, Folkets bio, Skivmässa shut down; churches go online
- Västerbotten infection count rises to 42 with nine in the hospital
- Armed Forces build infection assessment tent outside emergency ward
- Umeå Student Union President promises help to students “affected” by digital coursework
ÅLIDHEM – Local government bodies, events, and churches today started adjusting to a nationwide ban on gatherings larger than 50 people. The ban was announced this afternoon by Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. The move is intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has now killed 92 people in Sweden and sent nine people to the hospital in Västerbotten, four of them in intensive care. The total number of confirmed cases in Västerbotten increased by three today to 42.
The ban comes into place on Sunday, and can be enforced by police. Violators may be fined or imprisoned up to six months. The rules do not officially apply to private organisations, such as gyms or restaurants, but authorities said they hoped they would have a “normative effect” and be observed by everyone in the country.
In the wake of the new rules, the city of Umeå announced it was reducing the number of members in its Municipal Council (kommunfullmäktiges), its highest decision-making body. Normally composed of 65 representatives, only 35 will meet from now on. Council Chair Marie-Louse Rönnmark said that during the coronavirus crisis, “it is extremely important that Umeå municipality is creative and solution-focused. However,” she continued, “democratic values and principles must persist longer than a virus.”
The council hall’s speaker’s podium, where members of the general public can express their opinions, will remain open. However, the council is encouraging visitors to follow meetings online rather than in person.
The Västerbotten Regional Council (Regionfullmäktiges) is also changing its rules, reducing meetings to 36 people, the minimum needed for a quorum. Other members can join via video link or telephone.
Norwegian airlines announced today that it was cancelling all its flights within Sweden until at least May, including its Umeå to Stockholm service. On Umeå Airport’s website, only a single flight was listed as departing tomorrow, a morning SAS flight to Stockholm.
The Folkets bio cinema announced it would close starting tomorrow. “The prevailing situation in the community,” the Folkets bio wrote on its webpage, “entails a major hit for the country’s independent theaters.” It recommended movie fans to subscribe to streaming service Draken Film, a percentage of whose proceeds would go back to the Folkets bio.
The Umeå Skivmässa, a recorded music fair with 40 exhibitors, was cancelled today. It had been planned for early May in the Universum building at Umeå University.
The Church of Sweden in Umeå announced that starting Sunday it was limiting the number of people who can attend services. The church invited worshipers to “light a virtual candle” via a link on its webpage.
Umeå’s Pentecostal Church (pingst kyrkan) said it was shutting down its live gatherings, to be streamed online instead. In a video posted to Facebook, director Ulf Sundkvist, said that “Right now, we need each other. We hope for the best.”
Umeå Today reached out to the popular student nightclub Rouge to see if it was remaining open this weekend, but did not receive a response. Earlier this week, a number of other pubs in Umeå closed down or reduced their service.
Meanwhile, Umeå Hospital has enlisted the help of the military to improve its coronavirus treatment facilities. Defense workers set up a khaki green infection assessment tent outside the hospital’s emergency entrance, near the smaller yellow tent which was set up last week. Paula Johagen, an emergency room administrator, explained that “assessment takes place in two stages: screening and sorting. The screening is performed outdoors with two meters of safety between the patients, and is carried out by a nurse.”
“Patients suspected to have covid-19 are sent to the tent,” she explained.
Armed Forces Colonel Stefan Jansson said that “it feels good to be able to contribute” to “society in crises of this kind.”
Umeå Student Union President Hanna Lundin Jernberg posted a video to Facebook today intended to support the student body in this “extraordinary situation”, as courses are now taught entirely digitally.
“As much as possible, I want you to remember your student rights,”, she said, “because I am convinced that someone will certainly be affected by this.”
“If you have any problems related to your studies,” she continued, “please contact one of the student union ombudspersons, who will help you.”