The King of Sweden has spoken out against his country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic in a surprisingly frank interview with Sweden’s SVT: “I think we have failed. A large number have died and that is terrible.”
The King also admitted 2020 has been a “terrible year” and that his own fears about catching the virus have increased.
Critical comments from the very top
Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden made the comments in an annual broadcast on SVT known as the “Year with the Royal Family,” which bears similarities to the Queen’s speech traditionally broadcast on Christmas Day in the U.K.
“The people of Sweden have suffered tremendously in difficult conditions. One thinks of all the families who have been unable to say goodbye to deceased family members. It is a tough and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye,” said the King.
Johan T. Lindwall from royal magazine Svensk Damtidning said it is “exceptional and unusual” for the King to speak so critically in public. The full interview will be broadcast on Sweden’s SVT1 at 8pm CET on December 21.
Sweden struggles with a second wave
Swedish authorities have faced both praise and criticism from around the globe with their light-touch approach to tackling the first phase of the pandemic earlier this year. However, with the country is now showing signs of taking a tougher stance as the second wave bites.
While a long way short of the strict lockdown imposed in Denmark over Christmas, Sweden’s prime minister is encouraging all residents to avoid public transit and shopping malls, and limit private gatherings to no more than 8 people. “This year Christmas will not be as usual. This year we will not be able to celebrate with all the people we want to celebrate with,” he said at a press conference.
According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Sweden, 7,802 people have died from COVID-19 in Sweden. Almost 1,400 of deaths were recorded in the last month alone. The number of daily confirmed cases hit a new high of 8,402 on December 9, contributing to the total of 348,585 since the pandemic began in early March.
Sweden’s healthcare system is also operating close to capacity in many parts of the country.