Thursday, November 26, 2020
  2.0 °C
  clear sky
-Umeå Universitet

Sweden’s Virus Response Failing Because “Trust Does Not Exist”, Argue Umeå Doctors

• Sweden needs “radical and quick changes” to lower death rate, doctors say • Local infection count grows to 230, with 21 in the hospital and 10 in intensive care • National government lays down much more specific definitions of high-risk patients • Umedalens IF Bandy team changes Umebor’s car tires (with virus precautions) • Umeå Beer Club’s advice for pandemic: “Drink what makes you happy!”
  • Sweden needs “radical and quick changes” to lower death rate, doctors say
  • Local infection count grows to 230, with 21 in the hospital and 10 in intensive care
  • National government lays down much more specific definitions of high-risk patients
  • Umedalens IF Bandy team changes Umebor’s car tires (with virus precautions)
  • Umeå Beer Club’s advice for pandemic: “Drink what makes you happy!”

Outspoken Umeå University virologist Fredrik Elgh yesterday evening said that “Sweden must put on the brakes much harder” in its efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, in an interview with Västerbottens-Kuriren. He was defending a highly-debated editorial three days earlier in Dagens Nyheter, signed by a group of Umeå doctors. In it, they argued that the requisite “trust does not exist in Sweden” between the population and politicians, in order to expect people to maintain social distancing largely with government recommendations rather than laws, and by not legislating closure of places where people gather, like primary schools and restaurants.

“Here, a war exists within families, many of whom want to keep their children home, but the authorities say they must go to school,” the doctors wrote. “We see some teenagers living in quarantine, but others barbecuing and going to cafes.” Umeå Today has repeatedly reported observing people ignoring government social distancing guidelines in the city center.

A group of young people skateboarding and trick cycling in close proximity, in the city center this week (image blurred for privacy). -Umeå Today

The editorial was signed by Umeå University researchers Fredrik Elgh, Thomas Sandström, and Joacim Rocklöv (pictured above), as well as Marie Marklund, Stefan Marklund, and Anders Wahlin, along with 16 other doctors around the country.

The researchers recommended “radical and quick changes”, including closing schools and restaurants, ensuring adequate protective equipment for people who work with the elderly, quarantine for an entire family if a member is ill or tests positive for coronavirus, and mass testing of all health care staff both for the infection, and for antibodies which might indicate that they are resistant to it.

Yesterday, regional officials said that Umeå hospital was reducing the frequency of testing of its staff because of a lack of test kits. On Thursday, Umeå microbiologists announced that they were implementing their own new antibody test at the hospital. Last night, SVT reported that health care workers in Umeå nursing homes are concerned that they are not using protective equipment regularly enough. Hanna Vernerlund, a caretaker at an Umeå nursing home, was quoted as asking, “what will happen if someone gets infected in the department? Should they be isolated in their room, or should the whole department be isolated?”

“They have tested the residents in my department but they are not testing staff,” she also told SVT. “We stay at home with the the most minor symptoms, yet we already earn so little and can’t really afford to be home.”

In the editorial, the researchers said there was no “well thought-out, well-functioning strategy for the prevention of coronavirus spread in Sweden”, and said that the consequence of this is that the country’s death rate is higher than its neighbors Norway, Denmark, and Finland, a fact verified by a number of widely-referenced sources such as the Worldometer and Germany’s Statista. These countries have enacted stronger lockdowns that Sweden.

On the same day, national epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, who has major influence over Sweden’s coronavirus policy, argued that the rate was higher because residents in Swedish nursing homes are older than in the rest of Scandinavia, and therefore more vulnerable to dying from the infection.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed infections in Västerbotten rose again today by 10 to 230, with 21 in the hospital and 10 in intensive care, according to regional officials. The number of total deaths remained at 10.

The National Board of Health and Welfare announced more precise definitions last night about who exactly counts as being in a high-risk group for serious complications from the infection. The group includes people who:

  • Are above 70 years old.
  • Are obese, with a body mass index above 40.
  • Have cancer, or are undergoing or have recently completed cancer treatment.
  • Have neuromuscular illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) with an effect on muscle function.
  • Have intellectual impairment and reduced ability to move.
  • Have at least two of the following illnesses: cardiovascular disease (angina, heart failure, stroke), hypertonia, diabetes with complications, chronic kidney disease and kidney failure, chronic lung disease (other than asthma), or chronic liver disease.
  • Have other serious illnesses like an immunodeficiency, residual effects of a disease that severely affected organ function, spinal cord injury with the need for continuous respiratory support, as well as any treatment that impairs the body’s defense against infections.

A combination of multiple of these increases someone’s risk, the board said.

Meanwhile, starting today and continuing through next weekend, Umedalens IF Bandy team is offering to change people’s car tires from winter to summer, using special coronavirus protection, as a team fundraiser. “We will keep as far as a hockey stick’s length away from you,” the club promises on Facebook. “You can gladly pay with Swish, and please stay home if you are not feeling well.”

Umedalens IF Bandy team will change your car tires with special coronavirus precautions. -Gustav Forsblom

On Wednesday, the Swedish Transportation Agency extended the deadline for removing studded winter tires until April 30 because of special conditions due to the pandemic.

Finally, as the debate ensues over who and to what degree people should be gathering in person in Umeå, some local clubs are answering the problem by moving their activities online. This includes the Umeå Beer Club, which is meeting tonight and multiple times over the next couple of weeks for free “online beer tastings”. Club co-head Dave Orman explained to Umeå Today how online beer tastings work.

“We decide on the beers one or two weeks before each tasting,” he said. “That gives people enough time to buy or order them if necessary. We take pictures of the upcoming beers and post them to our Instagram and Facebook.”

Umeå Beer Club “online beer tasting” co-hosts Dave Orman and Mimmi Äijö. -D. Orman

“Then they drink them along with us in the comfort of their own homes,” he continued. Orman and co-host Mimmi Äijö taste the beers on a live Instagram video, and users comment with their opinions via chat.

Asked what a particularly good beer is for drinking during the pandemic, Orman replied, “The answer to that is simple: Drink what makes you happy!”

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