Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said his government should have taken more aggressive steps and moved more quickly to stop the spread of the pandemic, and he takes full responsibility for the initial strategy that led the country to suffer a disproportionately high number of deaths.
In an interview with Dagens Nyheter, Lofven said the government’s response to the spread of the virus among the elderly was inadequate, and that testing should have begun earlier.
“As prime minister, I take full responsibility for the strategy that we have,” Lofven said.
Sweden began stepping up its response to the virus only recently, after deaths, particularly among older people, rose to per-capita levels that are more than three times those of its closest regional peer, Denmark. Even King Carl XVI Gustaf has called the nation’s response a failure, a rare rebuke of the government by a Swedish monarch.
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In what many characterized as a too-little, too-late response, Sweden earlier this month enacted a new law that restricts private gatherings and allows for fines and shuttering of businesses that don’t follow restrictions such as caps on the number of visitors. Previously, authorities relied on voluntary compliance with general recommendations.
Lofven also tried to defend the government’s approach at the outset of the pandemic, arguing that no one really knew back then how the situation would develop. Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s top epidemiologist and the chief architect behind the country’s Covid strategy, proposed the light-touch approach from the get-go, based on an idea that the virus would be around for a long time and that recurring lockdowns weren’t a practical long-term solution.
Lofven told Dagens Nyheter that the government’s initial priority was to increase the amount of intensive care available. That shifted focus away from testing, including delaying the creation of the infrastructure needed to conduct extensive testing.