The Emergence of Omicron in Sweden: A COVID anomaly no more?
Sam Osmend covers the spread of Omicron through Sweden, a country that never officially entered a lockdown…
Sweden was one of my top places to study on my exchange year abroad, one of the main reasons being its extremely liberal handling of the COVID pandemic. Sweden never once went into an official lockdown. Instead, there was a focus on discouraging large gatherings and encouraging mask-wearing and physical distancing – a system almost entirely built upon public trust. Although this was less of a political decision than many people think. Several laws within the Swedish Constitution prohibit any infringement upon the freedom of movement of Swedish citizens unless Sweden is actively involved in a war. So even if the Swedish government wanted to, a lockdown is made impossible because of its unconstitutional nature. This basically meant that life in Sweden has carried on as per usual, despite the global situation. However, Sweden’s mortality rate comes out worse than their Scandinavian neighbours Denmark and Norway, prompting many political analysts, health authorities and Swedish citizens to criticise this open anti-lockdown approach.
life in Sweden has carried on as per usual, despite the global situation. However, Sweden’s mortality rate comes out worse than their Scandinavian neighbours
COVID has been fairly invisible since I arrived in August, and despite the Delta variant’s growth across Europe, most people in Sweden were largely unimpacted. Clubbing resumed at the start of October, as well as other indoor gatherings of more than 50 people. A bit of a godsend given that the warmest it gets these days is -4 *C.
And now we have the newest edition to the COVID family – the Omicron variant.
This new variant is stirring up fear globally as its has been deemed far more contagious than the already viral Delta variant. So what has the Swedish response been?
…testing efforts have been raised, with more public health campaigns encouraging it.
Certainly one of caution, that much is certain. Since the start of December and confirmation of the first Omicron cases, testing efforts have been raised, with more public health campaigns encouraging it. Working from home and all of the old pandemic tropes are making a return in public discourse. The impact of the new variant is visibly evident. When I got off the plane at Stockholm Arlanda airport in August, I was the only one wearing a mask, and I quickly realised that I was very much the odd one out as I stepped into a seemingly post-COVID world. However, that fantasy is very much just that and since the start of December, mask-wearing has become far more common.
When I got off the plane at Stockholm Arlanda airport in August, I was the only one wearing a mask…
Sweden has followed the trend of many by introducing the requirement to show proof of vaccination but only before attaining events of over 100 people. This is quite contradictory given the former COVID approach and general Swedish ethos however there doesn’t seem to be as much opposition to this idea. Sweden is of no exception to the rise of The Right so all of the known ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’ criticisms do nonetheless exist. Personally, I think that many are relieved to see a relatively weak Social Democrat government have a strong-willed approach. Overall, the government and welfare state are already very visible and prominent in Swedish life, so this is seen as just another extension of that visibility.
At the time of writing, I currently only have one jab of the vaccine. I was going to get my second before traveling but I ended up actually catching it right as the second dose was due. So after waiting the month after testing positive, I was already here in Sweden. There is nothing stopping me getting my second dose here, but being vaccinated in two different countries sounds like a future logistical issue I don’t want to solve. So with only one dose, I am unable to attend indoor events of over 100 people. Although notably, this requirement is null for lectures and exams. If I was fully vaccinated as planned then my UK NHS COVID pass would be valid here, quite a relief given the UK’s frosty relationship with the EU. Luckily, I should be able to travel home for Christmas, after shelling out a small fortune for all necessary tests upon departure and arrival.
However, depending on infection rates, this could all change overnight…
Editor: Ryan Gerrett