The deadly virus has now infected almost three-quarters of a million people worldwide, including 3,700 Swedes, yet schools, nurseries, bars, restaurants, ski resorts, sports clubs and hairdressers all remain open, weeks after everything closed down in neighbouring countries like Denmark and Norway. Universities have been shut, and on Friday, the government tightened the ban on events to limit them to no more than 50 people, but It has only been in the last few days that the death toll has increased significantly, rising by a third in a single day on Thursday and Friday. If you develop symptoms, you can still go back to work or school just two days after feeling better, but there is an explanation for the unorthodox approach.
According to Eurostat figures, more than half of Swedish homes are single-occupied, with the most common age to move out between 18 and 19, compared to an EU average of 26.
Bjorn Olsen, a professor of infectious diseases at Uppsala University, believes this is key to curbing the impact.
He told the BBC last week: “If you have a household with several generations, of course, you are going to have a quick spread.
“We have a lot of single people living in Stockholm, in the big cities in Sweden, and that could sort of slow the pace a little bit.”
We have a lot of single people living in Stockholm
Other experts believe Swedish culture is also a key driver behind the decision.
Author Lola Akinmade Akerstrom added: “As for social distancing, Swedes already have that down and naturally gave each other tonnes of physical space way before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“Swedes are also used to staying at home at the slightest inkling of a headache.”
Sweden offers generous sick pay compared to the rest of Europe, with the government paying up to 80 percent of their salary for the first 14 days without a doctor’s note.
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The Swedish government has also asked people to follow authorities’ advice and take voluntary collective responsibility for slowing the spread of coronavirus.
The response so far shows the nation’s long-standing confidence in the state and their willingness to follow the rules.
Stockholm’s public transport company SL says it saw passenger numbers fall by 50 percent on subway and commuter trains last week.
Polls suggest three-quarters of Swedes are keeping at least a metre away from others and at least a third of the capital is working from home.
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The Swedish Internet Foundation found that more than 65 percent of Swedes were already experienced in working from home, so the transition was not too much of a shock.
But, the Swedish Public Health Agency has warned that things could be set to change in the near future.
There are long-running concerns if hospitals are ready to cope with the increase demand for beds and intensive care equipment.
The Swedish Medical Association is worried that not enough has been done to inform residents who do not speak Swedish, following a high proportion of deaths and infections in Stockholm’s Somali community.
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