- Coronavirus assessment tent built outside hospital emergency entrance
- 23 infected persons now identified in Västerbotten, with four inpatients
- Government calls for domestic travel restrictions as BRA airline cuts service
- Restaurants report major loss of customers while Ålidhem East Asian market closes
ÅLIDHEM – Swedish health authorities announced today three new cases of coronavirus in Västerbotten, bringing the total to 23. Nationally, 1,423 cases have been reported and 10 people have died from the virus. Västerbotten has an infection rate of eight out of every 100,000 persons. The average among Swedish counties is 13.3. SVT television quotes Västerbotten infectious diseases specialist Gunilla Persson as saying that four coronavirus patients are now in Umeå University Hospital, with one of them in intensive care.
The hospital has set up a coronavirus assessment tent outside the entrance to the emergency department, and says that the purpose of the tent is to assess patients who are showing symptoms of the virus. If staff determine that someone might be infected, then he or she is sent to the acute infection ward.
Umeå Today asked Paula Johagen, operational director of the emergency department, whether it is at risk of being overcrowded. She said that currently that was not the case, but that the hospital is preparing for that possibility. Today, Västerbottens-Kuriren reported that the number of calls to emergency phone line 1177 has more than doubled in Västerbotten, and retirees are being brought in to help lessen the burden on 1177 staff. Persson also told SVT that there is “strong pressure” on the laboratory where suspected coronavirus samples are being analyzed, and that priority is being given to health care personnel for getting tested. Persson said that there was a “lack of capacity” at the hospital, because it was testing not only samples from Västerbotten, but also Norrbotten County.
Johagen also said today that the hospital has expanded the number of infectious disease treatment rooms from one to three, created a special emergency room for suspected coronavirus cases, and has a team of three doctors and one nurse training staff on how to handle the coronavirus situation.
Umeå’s blood bank at the hospital also told SVT today that “significantly” fewer people are giving blood, and staff suspect that fear of coronavirus is the cause. Director Magnus Nordström put out an appeal today to healthy individuals to come in and give blood.
A source told Umeå Today that paracetemol and and ibuprofen have become “scarce” over the past few days in some Umeå pharmacies, including the one in the hospital.
Today, Sweden’s national health authority called on residents not to travel within Sweden unless necessary. This is the first time officials have requested restrictions on trips within the country, rather than outside. National epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said that if people spread themselves out over Sweden, “we run the risk of ending up in a situation such that resources in, for example, health care, are difficult to redistribute.”
BRA airline, which serves the Umeå to Stockholm-Bromma route, announced today a “dramatic reduction in its flight capacity”, pausing 12 of its 18 domestic flights. Umeå Airport’s online departure schedule this evening showed that one out of five BRA flights to Bromma was cancelled today, and only four were scheduled for tomorrow as well. Throughout this week, the number of passengers dropped drastically at the airport, as airlines SAS, Norwegian, and Finnair all announced reductions in their traffic.
Meanwhile, restaurants and food stores in Umeå are closing. Harriet’s, attached to the Hotel Dragonen, has shut down indefinitely, except for hotel guests. Qiao Trading, the East Asian grocery on Pedagoggränd in Ålidhem, also closed yesterday, for unknown reasons. A sign written in Mandarin in the store window said “Please call me if you have any issue.”
Other restaurants are reporting large drops in the number of customers eating out. TC at the Folkshuset at Vasaplan told Västerbottens-Kuriren that it is ramping up its take-away service, while the number of its in-house lunch customers has dropped in half. The paper also quotes Jörgen Engdahl, manager of city center restaurants Hunger och Törst and Harlequin, as calling the situation “serious”, but glad that many people are still ordering out. “You get teary-eyed,” said Engdahl, “over how many gift cards and take-away orders are being bought nowadays.”