Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf says his country has “failed” in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Swedish people have suffered “enormously” as a result.
In pre-recorded comments released Thursday, the king said many people have died in Sweden from the virus, and “that is horrible.”
The 74-old king, whose son and daughter-in-law tested positive for the virus last month, was asked if he was fearful of getting COVID-19 himself.
“Lately, it has felt more obvious,” he said. “It has crept closer and closer. That is not what you want.”
The king made the comments as part of a year-end holiday broadcast scheduled to air Monday on Swedish television. The monarch plays a ceremonial role and holds no political power.
Sweden initially took a different approach to the pandemic than its Nordic neighbors, Norway and Denmark, as well as other nations in Europe. The government never imposed lockdowns or mandated face masks, allowed restaurants and businesses to remain open, and relied mainly on voluntary social distancing and hygiene recommendations to slow the spread.
But the nation saw a rising death toll, particularly among elderly residents of care facilities, and its per capita death rate far exceeded that of Norway and Demark.
In a preliminary report released Tuesday, an independent commission appointed by the Swedish government said the government failed to sufficiently protect the elderly in care homes from the virus.
In recent weeks, the government has imposed tighter COVID-19 restrictions, mandating remote learning for schools, limiting the size of public gatherings and banning the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. in bars and restaurants.
Sweden’s total COVID-19-related deaths stand at 7,667, much higher than its regional neighbors, but still lower than other European nations such as Britain, Spain, Italy and France, all of whom imposed lockdowns.