“It is a myth that life goes on as normal in Sweden,” said the country’s foreign minister Ann Linde on Friday, defending the government’s COVID-19 response.
Sweden has come in for criticism because its measures to stop the spread of coronavirus are less strict than many other countries in Europe.
It has banned large gatherings, closed high schools and universities and told elderly people to self-isolate. But restaurants, bars, primary schools and most businesses are still open, which brings into question Linde’s claim.
Journalist Mie Olsen went to Malmö to see for herself on Saturday.
“At first sight, Malmö offers evidence to support Linde’s assertion,” she writes. “There are few people walking the streets near the main square, Stortorget. Bars have cancelled live events and public notices thank people for keeping their distance.
“Yet, the charismatic Lilla Torg – a little square next to Stortorget – buzzes with a weekend atmosphere. Young and old drink under outdoor heaters and families stroll the pavement. The cosy corner café Folk & Rock has around 20 customers inside on a Saturday afternoon.
“Swedes in Malmö feel COVID-19 has disrupted public life but that it should not stop them from relaxing in the streets and enjoying themselves with a cold refreshment.”
Sweden has registered more than 1,500 COVID-19 deaths, at the time of writing. More than a third have occurred within the last week.
Despite the recent surge, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has stood firm on the government’s strategy of achieving herd immunity.