Sweden’s king has declared the country’s handling of coronavirus a failure, pointing to the “terrible” death toll of close to 8,000 people, and the “sorrow and frustration” felt by those who have lost loved ones.
In an interview recorded for the Royals’ annual Christmas television programme, Carl XVI Gustaf delivered his harsh verdict on Sweden’s light-touch strategy.
“I think we have failed,” he said. “A large number people have died, put quite simply, and that’s terrible. It’s something that we all have to suffer.”
The king’s intervention reflects growing criticism of the government and its agencies, both from the media, opposition politicians and from the public.
The country’s coronavirus commission heavily criticised both the government and the public health agency on Tuesday for their failure to prevent the virus from cutting a swathe through elderly care homes.
The country has tightened restrictions over the past month, reducing the size of allowed public gatherings to eight people, returning upper secondary schools students to distance learning, and banning the sale of alcohol before 10pm. But there are growing calls for a hard lockdown such as that announced by Denmark on Wednesday.
The country has registered more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths this month, bringing the total to 7,800.
Over 70 new deaths are now being registered each day, on a seven-day, rolling average, bringing the country ever closer to its mid-April peak.
In his interview, which will be broadcast in full on Monday, the king rued the challenging times.
“The Swedish people have suffered colossally under difficult conditions,” he said.
“One thinks of all the families who have been unable to say goodbye to family members who have died. I think it is a heavy and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye.”
He referred to his own recent period of self-isolation after his son Prince Carl Phillip and his wife Princess Sofia tested positive for the virus following a family funeral in November.
“In recent times it [the virus] has felt much more tangible. It has crept closer and closer, which isn’t anything one really wishes for oneself.”
In its first report, the coronavirus commission said that Sweden’s government, together with its centre-Right predecessor, bore, “the ultimate responsibility” for the failings in the country’s care homes.
The Public Health Agency, meanwhile was criticised for setting the country’s coronavirus strategy without having “an adequate overview of the problems and deficiencies in municipal elderly care.”