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Police Need Tips on “2 Red Vespas” from Vännäs Arson Yesterday; First-Ever Exact Umeå Virus Count Released

Police are asking for information about two people on Vespa scooters, suspected of setting fire to Vännäs police headquarters and a resident’s car yesterday morning.

ÅLIDHEM – Police in Vännäs, directly to Umeå’s west, appealed to the public this afternoon to provide any tips about two people on red Vespa scooters who officers believe may be connected to the presumed arson early yesterday morning. The fire blazed through the front entrance of the town’s police headquarters and destroyed a nearby car.

The two suspects were not wearing helmets when they were seen in connection with the fires, which broke out soon after midnight on Tuesday, according to police spokesperson Malin Axroth. The police have labelled the case both major arson and sabotage, and believe the two fires are related. The owner of the burned car said yesterday that during the incident, a friend of his chased three people riding mopeds into the woods, according to Västerbottens-Kuriren.

This past Saturday night, Umeå police said that two moped-riders appeared to try to run them over, at a gathering of some 120 young people in Backen.

The Vännäs incidents are not the first arson, nor the first attack on police headquarters, in the town. On the night of January 17, police reported that someone intentionally set fire to a school in Vännäs, which was quickly extinguished by firefighters. In October 2017, someone threw stones at the station, breaking a window. During yesterday’s station fire, windows had also been broken.

The suspected Vännäs arson comes about two weeks after a series of car fires, and a house fire, in Tunnelbacken, ErsbodaHolmsund, and Mariehem, all of which experts have suggested may have been a way for gangs to distract police while drug-traders make deliveries, with street crime exacerbated due to fewer pedestrians during the coronavirus crisis. During the pandemic, Umeå Today has observed an increase in vandalism in the city, as well as anti-police graffiti.

Umeå no longer has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in Västerbotten, with 110, versus 128 for Skellefteå.

Umeå has 110 confirmed coronavirus infections — fewer than Skellefteå, which has 128, regional officials said this morning at a press conference. Today marked the first time that they released the exact numbers of patients who tested positive for coronavirus in each town or city in Västerbotten. It also was the first time that Umeå’s infection count was not found to be the highest in Västerbotten. Two weeks ago, officials said that Umeå had the most confirmed cases in the region, but Skellefteå the highest number per capita. At that time, however, they did not provide any figures.

Västerbotten’s health and medical director Brita Winsa told Umeå Today that the relative drop in numbers does not necessarily mean that the virus is slowing its spread in Umeå. “The first cases in Västerbotten were found in Skellefteå,” she explained, “and so, it has been on higher alert, doing more testing than Umeå.”

Winsa also said that Skellefteå’s population is, on average, older than Umeå’s, so Skellefteå residents are more likely to be tested, as the virus is more dangerous to elderly patients.

The total for each city and town is:

  • Bjurholm: fewer than 10
  • Dorotea: fewer than 10
  • Lycksele: fewer than 10
  • Malå: fewer than 10
  • Nordmaling: fewer than 10
  • Norsjö: fewer than 10
  • Robertsfors: 29
  • Skellefteå: 128
  • Sorsele: fewer than 10
  • Storuman: fewer than 10
  • Umeå: 110
  • Vilhelmina: fewer than 10
  • Vindeln: 18
  • Vännäs: fewer than 10
  • Åsele: fewer than 10

Umeå Today reported on Monday that a new study showed that almost nine out of 10 Swedish residents are practicing social distancing in public places. Winsa said that she could not confirm that this figure holds true for Umeå, but that the city “makes social distancing easier”, both because it is relatively sparsely populated, and because Umeå residents use cars more often versus public transit, compared to more southerly Swedish cities like Stockholm and Gothenburg.

Winsa also passed on a message to Umeå Today for the 120 young people who gathered in Backen on Saturday night: “Don’t do it.”

“Umeå’s young people are generally obedient about being careful not to visit older relatives,” as not to spread the infection to them, she said. “However, when meeting with other friends, Umeå’s young people might have less concern,” she added, “and they are risking a general spread, which could then be passed onto more vulnerable people.”

The city of Umeå is extending a program to offer financial counseling to struggling businesses until August 31.

Umeå’s highest-ranking political figure, Municipal Council Committee Chair Hans Lindberg, announced this afternoon that the city will now be giving financial counseling through to the month of August to companies hard hit by the pandemic. When this program, known as Business Emergency (Företagsakuten), was first launched in March, it was only planned to last through the spring. Business managers can meet with corporate advisers to deal with problems such as short-term layoffs and loss of revenue, and to devise new sales initiatives.

“The program has been crucial in saving several companies,” Lindberg said. “Since the business community is of great importance in maintaining and increasing the number of jobs in Umeå, we must do what we can to provide support during the crisis.”

Real estate developer Diös has revealed a sketch of its plans for new construction in the city center.

In the midst of the economic crisis, Umeå real estate developer Diös has presented its new imagined housing and commercial development east of the new city hall in central Umeå. The planning documents were submitted today, Diös said.

Sketch of the new development. -Diös

Diös intends the area to have a park-like feel, with lanes for bicycle commuters that would feed directly into the blocks south of the main train station. A parking garage nearby would also be enlarged.

Dios development location. -Google Maps

“It feels really good to hand in the documents for these exciting projects,” said Diös Umeå Business Manager Göran Fonzén. “We have been working on the development of the new block and the extension of the parking garage for a time, with the goal of helping to strengthen central Umeå.”

An island in the Ume River is now closed to the public in order to protect woodpeckers.

The white-backed woodpecker. –Länsstylresen

Västerbotten officials announced today that they are closing Stora Tuvan, an island in the nature reserve of the Ume River delta where it meets the Baltic Sea, to visitors. One path on the island’s eastern edge will remain open, and the shut down lasts until June 15. An endangered bird species, the white-backed woodpecker, was found this week to be forming pairs and mating on Stora Tuvan. Last fall, the county cleared a large portion of the island of spruce trees, in order to promote species that thrive in deciduous forests.

Andreas Garpebring, a nature conservationist, said that “we had hoped for mating, but never dared to dream that it would happen the year after the spruce removal.”

“Now, the couples need peace and quiet to care for their children, until they are ready to leave the nest,” said Mälin König, who coordinates the white-backed woodpecker conservation program for Västerbotten.

Map of Stora Tuvan. The areas in red and black are closed to visitors, except for the blue path. -Länsstylresen

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