Sweden rejects Trump claims over virus strategy
Hilmar Gerber, operations manager of the primary health clinic at Sophiahemmet hospital, opens to show a tent for testing and receiving potential coronavirus COVID-19 patients. AFP
Sweden on Wednesday rejected claims by US President Donald Trump that its approach to containing the coronavirus was too soft and that it was "suffering" more than others.
Stockholm has not imposed extraordinary lockdown orders seen elsewhere in Europe to stem the spread of the virus, which has killed almost 700 people in the Scandinavian nation. Asked at a White House briefing on Tuesday what advice he would offer to leaders who were sceptical of social distancing measures, Trump replied: "There aren't too many of them... They talk about Sweden, but Sweden is suffering very gravely."
Instead of a lockdown, Sweden has called on citizens to take responsibility and follow social distancing guidelines and stay home if they have symptoms, and has also banned gatherings of more than 50 people and barred visits to nursing homes. But primary schools, shops, cafes, restaurants and bars remain open.
Foreign Minister Ann Linde pushed back against Trump's claim Sweden was not doing enough. "We are doing about the same things that many other countries are doing, but in a different way," Linde told broadcaster TV4. "We trust that people take responsibility."
On Wednesday, Swedish health authorities reported 8,419 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, with 687 deaths.
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell at Sweden's Public Health Agency told reporters he did not believe Sweden was suffering any more than any other country. "No, we don't share his opinion."
"Of course we're suffering. Everybody in the world is suffering right now, in different ways," he said. "But Swedish healthcare, which I guess he alludes to... is taking care of this in a very good manner. It's a lot of work, it's a lot of stress on the personnel and it's really a fight for them every day, but it's working."