Sweden's PM Says Country is 'Moving Towards Darker Times' in COVID Pandemic

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said the country is "moving towards darker times" and that "all indications are now going in the wrong direction" as the number of COVID-19 cases in the country soar.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Löfven said that while it had only been a year since the first cases of the virus were identified, that the time before the pandemic "seems completely distant." His speech was translated into English by Swedish news website thelocal.se.

"This is the darkest month of the year and the darkness will be with us for a while now, and unfortunately it also seems like we are moving towards darker times when it comes to the spread of infection in parts of the world, in Europe and here in Sweden," he said. All indications are now going in the wrong direction."

"The infection is spreading fast, and in the past week the number of people being treated for Covid-19 in intensive care has more than doubled. So far, the healthcare sector is managing the pressure, but staff in the sector have been overworked since spring, and now they risk standing on the front line for a long time to come."

Sweden has has over 162,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and just over 6,000 deaths. After a relatively small peak in cases between March and June, numbers fell significantly from July through to the end of August.

Throughout the pandemic the country has been watched closely as it is one of the few not to implement a national lockdown. Instead of introducing national rules that limit social contact and movement of people, Sweden's leaders chose to place emphasis on personal responsibility, asking people to work from home and maintain social distancing.

Many suggested this was in a bid to achieve herd immunity. This is where a virus moves through a population to a point where a large enough proportion of people have been infected that it is no longer able to spread effectively. The government has denied this was a goal.

Because of the fall in cases over the summer months, many people saw Sweden's lack of lockdown as a success.

However, cases started rising in September—in line with many other European countries—and officials are now reporting thousands of new cases every day. Regional lockdowns have been introduced in some parts of the country and it plans to ban the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

In the press conference, Löfven again urged personal responsibility, saying that while many people are "doing the right thing," some are not.

"There are more people who have begun to relax over autumn, there's no doubt about that, more people think that an evening out doesn't matter, maybe one day shopping at the mall maybe doesn't mean anything, more people think, 'my birthday party won't make a difference' or 'my meeting doesn't play a big role', but unfortunately it does make a difference," he said.

"Every decision we take in our everyday life makes a difference, it counts. Everyone's behavior, everyone's negligence, matters."

Stefan Löfven
Sweden’s prime minister Stefan Löfven on November 3. The PM said the country's COVID-19 cases are going in the wrong direction. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images