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UmeEcoRide Hanna Sinaie Johansson
UmeEcoRide Hanna Sinaie Johansson

Umeå Community, Business Leaders Call for Solidarity after Prime Minister’s Speech

• Umeå health officials working “faster” to prepare for coronavirus case increase • Medical clinic last-minute cancellation fees eliminated • Police predict as many as 50% of officers could stop working due to illness • LGBTQ+, Church of Sweden, business leaders work to support vulnerable residents • Student Union calls on students to report “unreasonable” university coronavirus decisions
  • Three coronavirus patients now in intensive care as hospital rations supplies
  • Medical clinic last-minute cancellation fees eliminated
  • Police predict as many as 50% of officers could stop working due to illness
  • LGBTQ+, Church of Sweden, business leaders work to support vulnerable residents
  • Student Union calls on students to report “unreasonable” university coronavirus decisions

ÅLIDHEM – Västerbotten County officials announced today that four coronavirus patients are being hospitalized, with three in intensive care, two more than yesterday. The total number of known infected patients in Västerbottten also rose today by one to 30, health authorities said.

Umeå University Hospital said today that is rationing and distributing protective medical equipment and other supplies. There is no “acute shortage” of such materials at the moment, said intensive care physician Sophie Jacbosson, but “the situation is dynamic”. She added that health care workers are expecting a shipment this week which will make the situation “less worrying”.

Infectious diseases doctor Gunilla Persson said today that “we are working on” getting prepared for an increase in cases, “but a little faster.” She said that coronavirus testing was only being performed on healthcare personnel and patients being cared for at the hospital. The choice of which patients get priority to health care is also being reconsidered, she explained. “Some planned treatments, which are not urgent, may be postponed.”

Local medical clinics have now temporarily eliminated late cancellation fees for doctor’s appointments. Normally, patients are charged if they cancel an appointment less than 24 hours beforehand, but this practice has been stopped, in order, presumably, to ease overcrowding at clinics. Patients are still, however, required to announce any cancellations ahead of time.

Police covering the region which includes Umeå told SVT today that they expect that up to 50% of their officers may end up having to stop working due to sickness, in a worst case scenario. “If schools and kindergartens close”, said regional chief Micael Säll Lindahl, “we risk losing more staff.” Regardless of how many police are available, “we must protect those who are exposed to life-threatening situations,” he said.

“Police cannot stop being police,” Lindahl explained. “There are still shootings and bombings.”

After yesterday’s unprecedented speech to the nation by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Umeå community and business leaders are echoing his message of solidarity and mutual responsibility in the face of the expected spread of the disease.

Ebba Sverke

Ebba Sverke, President of LGBTQ+ advocacy organization RFSL Umeå, told Umeå Today that “it is extra important to show compassion and care for each other as much as possible.”

“Those who feel isolated and alone may experience even more isolation now,” she wrote, and continued that RFSL Umeå “is always available as support, before the virus, now during the virus, but of course even after the virus has settled down.”

Umeå’s Church of Sweden Vicar Rev. Lena Fagéus wrote to Umeå Today that the church is “available for conversations, and, together with others in civil society, is here for those who need practical help like deliveries and similar tasks.”

“The Prime Minister”, Fagéus said, “stressed that we will get through this time together, and that is really what we are emphasizing in the church. We help each other and try to support each other in the best of ways.” Yesterday, that the Church of Sweden in Umeå, the Red Cross, and other community aid organizations were putting together a team of volunteers to deliver food to seniors and others at-risk for severe reaction to coronavirus.

Business owners are also adapting to the task of supporting Umeå residents who are relatively vulnerable to the coronavirus. Hanna Sinaie Johansson, who runs UmeEcoRide, a citywide transportation company using “podtaxis” — small, three-wheeled, covered vehicles — told Umeå Today that she has partnered with Pakistani restaurant Malala, near Central Station, to deliver meals to people isolated at home. “I predict that I will get more orders for packages from restaurants or boutiques,” Johansson said. “The strategy that we have in Sweden is that it is everyone’s responsibility to stick together, but still on a voluntary basis as long as possible.”

“We’re not taking on the tone of other countries, which have a lot of restrictions,” she said. “It’s up to us, now, everyone in Sweden to show that this model works and that we can be responsible and sacrifice some of our own comforts, our own wants.”

Umeå Today reached out to city government press officials for a response to the Prime Minister’s speech. They said one would be forthcoming tomorrow or Wednesday.

The Umeå Student Union is calling for students to scrutinize university responses to the coronavirus. This morning, the union made Vice President Anton Öhrlund’s speech to all students, recorded last Friday only in Swedish, available to Umeå Today. Öhrlund said that his organization believes that university decisions “are made with the students’ best interests in mind,” but “the university does not always have the whole picture, or sufficient insight into students’ situation.”

Öhrlund called on student leaders to “actively seek contact with course coordinators and ensure that you participate in all decisions that may affect students,” so that “no unreasonable decisions are made.” He further said that all students should “report any problems or strange decisions” to their representatives.

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