'We need help': Sweden's capital sounds the alarm as its hospitals fill with coronavirus patients

Naina Helen Jama/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty ImagesSweden’s Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren (L) and State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Public Health Agency of Sweden speak during a news conference on July 30, 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • The head of Stockholm’s health service has pleaded for help from the government as the Swedish capital’s hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients amid a spiralling new wave of infections.
  • Bjorn Eriksson, director of healthcare for the Stockholm region, said on Wednesday the region’s intensive care units were nearly full with coronavirus patients and asked for extra nurses and hospital staff.
  • “We need help,” he told a news conference.
  • Sweden has retreated from its no-lockdown stance as the government struggles to stem an alarming rise in the number of coronavirus infections and deaths.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The head of the health service in Sweden’s capital Stockholm has pleaded for help from the government as the city’s hospitals fill with COVID-19 patients amid a spiralling new wave of infections.

Bjorn Eriksson, director of healthcare for the Stockholm region, said on Wednesday that the region’s intensive care units were nearly full with coronavirus patients and asked the government to send extra nurses and hospital staff to deal with the number of Covid patients, according to a Reuters report.

“We need help,” he told a news conference, per Reuters, noting that 83 patients were in intensive care beds. “That corresponds more or less to all intensive care beds we normally have.”

Sweden was unique in pursuing a no-lockdown strategy at the beginning of the pandemic, instead relying on a more relaxed approach which relied on voluntary social distancing measures.

However, the country has since recorded 7,200 Covid-related deaths as of December 8, according to the World Health Organisation, meaning it has one of the highest per capita death rates in the world.

Anders Tegnell, the chief epidemiologist who is credited as being the architect of the no-lockdown policy, had predicted earlier this year that Sweden would be saved from a second Covid wave due to high levels of immunity in the general population but admitted last month that the country was experiencing a new surge in cases.

Tegnell has been heavily criticised for a policy which has coincided with a death rate many times higher than neighbouring countries including Norway.

Sweden has begun gradually to retreat from its no-lockdown stance in recent months as the government struggles to stem an alarming rise in the number of coronavirus infections.

In November the government banned the sale of alcohol after 10pm and banned public gatherings of more than 8 people. Last week Stefan Lofven, the prime minister, said that high schools would close for the rest of term.

Tegnell in August criticised countries including the UK and Norway for re-introducing lockdown measures, saying it would be “really detrimental to trust” to do so.

“Lifting and closing things is really detrimental to trust and will also have a lot more negative effects than keeping some kind of level of measures all the time,” he told the Observer newspaper. “Opening and closing schools, for example, would be disastrous.”

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