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Björn Olsen's Sweden

You got a hole in your head.


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The fight against COVID-19 is global. Most countries have adjusted to a form of 'The Hammer and the Dance'. The UK and the US chose a milder approach until Imperial College came out with their report. Then the UK did an about-face. Boris Johnson was hospitalised.

But Sweden followed the UK and Sweden hasn't changed a bit.

This is not to say all scientists in Sweden agree with the government's approach. On the contrary: protests have been loud from the beginning.

But nothing seems to change, and the country's public health authority won't listen or discuss the matter openly.

Björn Olsen, a professor in infectious diseases, who wrote a book on pandemics ten years ago and who warned of the current epidemic already in the first week of January, spoke with Aftonbladet yesterday. Here's a rush translation.

BO: The health authority people stand there at their daily pressers (except weekends) and chew the fat with the assembled journalists about various recommendations, and the journalists swallow it all without asking a single critical question.

BO: To give you one example: they keep saying that the spring break was behind the outbreak in Stockholm. But is that really the case? Why wasn't Norway hit as hard?

AB: So you don't approve of Sweden's strategy?

BO: No, we're in a lot of trouble compared to the other nordic countries, our fatalities are a lot higher than they are for our neighbours.

AB: What could they have done?

BO: Above all, they should have listened more to those who early on warned of the pandemic. Even in early February they were dismissing the idea that Sweden could be hit. They should have begun planning and built up their reserve supplies.

BO: And I think they should have shut things down sooner - and harder. Above all, I'd have liked to see our elected leaders step forward and make some real decisions. Putting out recommendations doesn't help when people choose to ignore them.

[The crisis in Sweden's care for the elderly is apparent. Almost half the fatalities come from homes for the elderly where the contagion is widespread.]

BO: Stopping visitors to those homes doesn't help if you simultaneously let the staff come and go and infect themselves and each other. I really can't understand what they hoped to accomplish. That was more like a brain fart. But what do I know? I'm only a professor specialising in infectious diseases.

AB: You seem very upset.

BO: We already know that this virus hits really hard against the elderly and those with comorbidities. These old people are the ones who built up this country. They're worth more than this.

AB: Why do you think they don't require PPE for staff?

BO: Either someone didn't listen properly, or they were forced to prioritise when they didn't have PPE reserves. For me it's obvious that there has to be a high level of security in our care facilities.

BO: The first fatality was terrible. And the second. And the third. Then people start turning it off. But behind each fatality is a human story, a tragedy, a family. So if you make light of this, you got a hole in your head.

BO: No other influensa or virus has created so much havoc and misery in over one hundred years. Not since the Spanish flu in the early 1900s. If you don't want to believe me, you can always ask the doctors in Italy what they think.

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