Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has urged his country to do what is necessary to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, warning that “people’s health and lives are in danger.”
In a rare televised address late Sunday, Lofven said too many people have neglected guidelines and recommendations regarding the virus in recent months. He called on fellow Swedes to stay home and not mix with people outside their homes.
“If you live alone, choose one, or at most two, friends to socialize with. But keep a distance, he said.
Last week, the government moved to cut the size of public gatherings sharply as it sought to come to grips with a second wave of the pandemic that has seen record daily numbers of new cases and growing pressure on hospitals.
The resurgence of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, hit Sweden weeks later than much of continental Europe, but the number of new infections has picked up speed since the turn of the month, with rising admissions to intensive care units and general COVID-19 wards.
Sweden opted for a different and much debated approach to handling the pandemic by keeping large sections of society open. It relied mainly on recommendations to the population to maintain social distancing and just repeated pleas to act responsibly.
As the weather turned colder, Sweden saw a rapid increase in new cases. Lofven said the jump in cases strained medical services and forced the government to take stricter measures, including a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. in bars and restaurants.
Lofven urged citizens to act for the good of the nation.
"One day when this crisis is over, we all should be able to remember how we helped each other. Remember the solidarity. Remember the sense of community and the feeling of doing the right thing," he said.
Swedish journalists reported that the national address Lofven gave has happened only four times in the nation’s history. Lofven has delivered two of them this year.
Sweden has reported more than 208,290 cases and 6,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the global outbreak.