• Inspected Umeå restaurants judged safe, while in Stockholm, one-third violate hygiene code
• Umeå’s cleaning companies lay off huge portion of employees due to lack of business
• Västerbotten approaches almost 300 confirmed infections
• Photographer Gunnar Seijbold, who took famous photo of wounded Umeå footballer, dies of coronavirus
• Umeå University-honored Västerbotten author P. O. Enquist dies at 85 after long illness
CENTRUM – Umeå’s restaurants were lively and their owners cautiously optimistic today and last night, after regional inspectors conducted checks over the past few days of whether restaurants were maintaining social distancing regulations among their customers. The inspectors did not return an immediate report of any code violations, which Västerbotten infectious diseases specialist Gunilla Persson called “promising” to SVT. In contrast to Umeå, inspectors in Stockholm yesterday reported 11 out of 32 restaurants violating code, with five in direct danger of being shut down.
Many restaurants in the city center, including Bishop’s Arms, Cinco, and Espresso House were busily hosting patrons at lunch today, whilst others are committing themselves to a take-out-and-delivery only policy, actively trying to prevent the virus from spreading inside their doors. Among the take-out-and-delivery establishments is Zaion Horn of Afrika, the Eritrean-African restaurant on Storgatan near the Umeå Energi headquarters. Owner Mike Tekeste told Umeå Today that he is grateful to the city’s vegan community for actively supporting his restaurant — which offers a variety of vegan dishes — by placing orders for large groups of customers at one time.
“The restaurant is struggling due to the pandemic,” he said. “Staying home is the right thing to do.”
Next week will be crucial to his business, Tekeste explained, because he will then decide whether to go into bankruptcy. He said he has put his life savings into Zaion Horn of Afrika, and is risking going into further debt as he waits for government funding.
Umeå Today, earlier during the crisis, repeatedly reported observing citygoers and restaurant customers apparently violating social distancing guidelines in the city center, sometimes confronting each other about it.
Cleaning companies — of which there are dozens in Umeå — are saying that they are being hit particularly hard now, as the crisis extends into its approximately sixth week in Umeå. Umeå Today readers Alimul Rajib and his wife Farjana Akter explained that their business Call and Clean has lost 90 percent of its contracts because of the pandemic. Rajib said that Call and Clean primarily serves hotels and night clubs, whose business has drastically shrunk since early March.
“We fired 90 percent of our employees,” Akter said, “and are trying to find new home and moving cleaning contracts.” Before the crisis, Call and Clean had three permanent and 10 part-time staff.
Among Call and Clean’s customers is the nightclub at Rex, in the old city hall, which has largely paused operations. In late March, Rex announced it was giving lay-off notices to its entire staff.
“Things were going very well before the pandemic,” Rajib said. “Now people are sitting at home, doing their own cleaning.”
Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Västerbotten approached 300 today, with 10 more reported for a total of 292, according to regional officials. 19 are in the hospital, with 12 in intensive care, and 13 dead in total — numbers which remained the same since yesterday.
Among the coronavirus dead in Sweden is Gunnar Seijbold, a prominent news photographer. His death yesterday in a Stockholm hospital at the age of 65 was announced this afternoon by one of his employers, the national newspaper Expressen. Seijbold was known in Umeå for a famous 2005 Aftonbladet portrait of a black-eyed Marta Vieira da Silva, a soccer star on the Brazilian national team who played for Umeå IK in the mid-2000s. da Silva, who went just by Marta, got the eyeball fracture after she was elbowed by opponent Malin Nykvist of Djurgården/Älvsjö IF during the UEFA cup.
Umeå was touched today by the announcement of another death, Per Olov Enquist, a Västerbotten-born author, director, and playwright who received an honorary doctorate from Umeå University in 1992 and who, along with author Torgny Lindgren, was the subject of a humanities department course on Västerbotten authors in 2011. Enquist, who often just used his first initials “P. O.”, was famous for writing in a Swedish dialect called Bondska, originating in northern Västerbotten and Norrbotten around Skellefteå, Sorsele, Norsjö, and Piteå.
Enquist did his military service in Umeå, at the Armed Forces installation in the area known as I20 north of Haga. Enquist had been ill with cancer and heart disease for several years, and died at the age of 85.