Right-Wing Media Hailed Sweden's COVID Response, But Even Sweden's King Says It Failed

"We have a large number who have died and that is terrible," said Carl XVI Gustaf.
Groups of people sit in a park in Stockholm in May. Photo: Loulou D'Aki/Bloomberg via Getty Images​
Groups of people sit in a park in Stockholm in May. Photo: Loulou D'Aki/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sweden’s king has said the country’s anti-lockdown and light-touch response to the coronavirus pandemic has been a failure, in a very rare public criticism of Swedish authorities.

“I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died and that is terrible. It is something we all suffer with,” Carl XVI Gustaf told Swedish broadcaster SVT, in an interview due to be broadcast in full next week.

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According to the John Hopkins University, Sweden has almost 350,000 coronavirus cases and more than 7,800 deaths. In contrast, neighbouring Denmark has recorded 120,000 cases and 975 deaths, and Norway 42,000 cases and 402 deaths. Both Denmark and Norway have imposed stricter COVID-related restrictions this year.

“You think of all the family members who have not been able to say goodbye to their deceased family members,” the Swedish king said. “I think it is a heavy and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye.”

The 74-year-old added that he himself has growing fears, which have “crept closer and closer”, of catching the virus himself.

Sweden was an international outlier in its approach to the first wave of the pandemic, in that it didn’t impose strict restrictions, and became something of a global poster child for anti-lockdown politicians and protesters. Masks were not made mandatory outside of hospitals, while bars, restaurants and shops stayed open, as citizens were encouraged to just wash their hands regularly and keep their distance from others.

As a second wave develops, the country has now begun imposing stricter restrictions, although they still fall short of those rolled out in other European countries.

The new restrictions come as hospitals in two Swedish regions, including the region that includes the capital Stockholm, said they were struggling to cope with a surge in cases