Sweden coronavirus press conference, April 1, 2020

I actually only saw the end of this one, but there were three things to mention:

1) On this day, there were 853,000 cases globally. In Sweden, there were 4947 cases. Out of those, 512 people had become sick during the last day. There were 393 people in the intensive care. Anders Tegnell, the national epidemiologist, stated about this: our curve is starting to look steeper. There were 239 dead.

2) For the first time, one of the people doing the sign language was a man:

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3) At the end, when they were back in the studio, they were analyzing whether or not the list of recommendations from the government was too long, too much too follow … were all the measures and communications clear? The reporter in the studio gave her opinion: I think the recommendations have all been very clear …

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Iva Horvatovic

… and I think she said that in response to people who tweet like this, who seems quite honestly super annoying. This tweeter seems like someone who moves to a new place and goes, OMG, OMG, OMG, please recognize what a great person I am, OMG, and in order to prove that I don’t actually care what you think, let me breathlessly list all the ways you’re failing.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 31, 2020

On this day, there were 716,000 cases worldwide. There were 4435 cases total in Sweden, and 358 people in intensive care. 180 dead.

This time, the press conference started off with politicians.

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Isabella Lövin of Sweden

Do you see her? Her name is Isabella Lövin, and she is the vice-Prime Minister. I have taken two selfies with her over the years. It was very exciting.

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Stefan Löfven of Sweden

And that man is the Prime Minister. I have seen him. I wrote about it here. I maybe was over-excited when I wrote that. I seemed to be very fond of him.

The politicians did a lot of talking, but mostly what they said was: on Easter, don’t go around distributing candy, that will have to wait. And no more visits to your parents or grandparents in retirement homes.

Oh, and that there will be more testing in Sweden. Testing will continue to be prioritized for old people and for medical people, but also now extended to other people who perform critical jobs (police, ambulances). But no, not everyone who wants a test will get one. Right now, about 10,000 tests are being done a week, and they want to get up to 20,000 to 30,000.

Question from the journalists: have we been testing too little, too slow?

Prime Minister: No, we’re testing as much as our neighboring countries, and we keep testing more and more.

Later, there was an individual interview with Isabella Lövin:

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Isabella Lövin

Correspondent: Why did you decide to make the rule prohibiting visits to retirement homes?

Isabella Lövin: some homes had already made this decision, others had not; and we wanted to have one clear rule for everyone, so that there will be no doubt, and so the head of the retirement doesn’t have to try to justify it themselves, but can just say, sorry! No visitors! Rules are rules!

Correspondent: Does this mean people can’t see their parents as they’re dying?

Isabella Lövin: there can be exceptions, but that’s up to the local chief.

Correspondent: you are asking people to stay home over the Easter break, but there’s no harder measures. Why not, for example, shut down ferries going to islands?

Isabella Lövin: It’s very important to follow the Public Health Authority recommendations. And we will take stricter measures if we need to.

Then it was back to the studio, where this self-satisfied analyst started summarizing:

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Mats Knudson

Mats Knudson: no, they’ve decided not to close the ferries to the islands; they’re going to trust that people will do what authorities tell them to do. So Easter will be sort of like a test to see if people listen or not.

By the way, Hiba Daniel was again the main newscaster that he was talking to:

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Hiba Daniel

Then it was time to leave the studio, because a second press conference was starting: this one with the people from the Public Health. Anders Tegnell wasn’t there today, instead, the vice National Epidemiologist stepped in. His name is also Anders.

Like Anders Tegnell, Anders Wallensten starts off by mentioning, oh, by the way, cases are increasing rapidly in the US.

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Anders Wallensten

This is what the graphs of the day look like:

The graph for the number of deaths by day is on the left, and number of cases per day on the right.

This this guy talked about something important: misinformation and propaganda with coronavirus.

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He said: Our job is to inform people about the correct things. But today, instead of informing, I want to talk about recognizing and confronting propaganda that’s coming from outside directed towards Sweden. Things that foreign entities are doing towards us. What we see right now is that a whole lot of distorted information is coming in — distorted information about the management of coronavirus in Sweden. Some things that are being said:

— that coronavirus is a form of biological warfare
— that it is not dangerous and the government is overreacting
— that Sweden is not doing anything at all about coronavirus (which, he then adds, you see is absolutely not true, motioning to the three other speakers on the podiums standing next to him)

He continues: Right now, there’s a lot of worry among us, and when people are worried, it makes them more vulnerable to these types of propaganda campaigns. So what we’re doing is trying to analyze these threatening propaganda-actors, figure out what they’re doing, and when they activate their resources against us. And then he lists some other things (kind of vague) that they’re trying to do to protect against the misinformation.

He continues: that’s what we’re doing. But what can you do? It maybe sounds like a broken record, but I have to say it anyways: think critically about news you read. Can you confirm the source? Where is the information coming from? What’s the goal of the people spreading it? If you see something suspicious, then don’t share it. Don’t let anyone steer you; it’s you that holds the truth (I maybe translated that wrong).

Then it was time for questions:

Here’s a picture of Anders Wallensten looking slightly perplexed at one of the questions:

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The same German journalist from the day before asked: Denmark yesterday said that they’re going to keep everyone locked inside till Easter, and then maybe think about loosening the restrictions. And the numbers in Sweden are going up. So are you all still sure that your measures are the correct strategy with your more liberal coronavirus policies?

Anders Wallensten: We believe that what we’re doing is correct right now. I don’t say that we won’t adopt new restrictions later if the situation changes, but the increases in coronavirus cases that we see is expected. Denmark knows best what to do for Denmark. But what we see here so far is a rate of increase that is not super steep.

German journalist again: Anders Tegnell said the other day (Tegnell is I think Wallensten’s boss of sorts) that in Sweden there is a pretty stable situation. Do you still think that’s true?

Anders Wallensten: It depends on which of the numbers you look at. We see an increase in cases. That increase is constant, day by day. It’s not shooting up.

So the press conference ended, and then it was time for individual interviews. They did an interview with this lady, who was one of the speakers. They asked her: there’s 3 doctors and 2 nurses that are in the intensive care with coronavirus. What can you comment about that?

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And what did she say? She kind of blamed the poor doctors and nurses. She said, well, it’s all very sad, but it’s up to every medical staffer to use the protective equipment they have properly! And she repeated that a couple of times. Yikes.

They also did an individual interview with Anders Wallensten, but they dragged him outside for that, and it looks cold:

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Anders Wallensten

Then it was back to the studio, and Hiba Daniel was leading the discussion again. Mats Knudson had disappeared, and Iva Horvatovich was back.

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Iva Horvatovic

They talked again about the misinformation campaigns directed towards Sweden. Iva summarized as follows: there’s lots of talk that Sweden isn’t doing anything, that Sweden is taking it very easy. And Sweden’s strategy has raised a lot of notice. In the established media, it has been said simply that Sweden is going its own way. But on social media, it’s a different story with a lot of misinformation.

Finally, and I’m sorry to do this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t show Hiba Daniel’s little grin when bringing up the out-of-control situation in the US:

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Anders Tegnell on the Swedish news on coronavirus

The newscaster at the Swedish TV (SVT) is named Anders Holmberg, and he is asking questions of Anders Tegnell. Don’t get confused between them, even though they are both called Anders. Tegnell is the national epidemiologist.

Holmberg: Many people have talked about how much less Sweden does compared to other countries when it comes to putting restrictions on social contact. Some countries have shut-down and entered quarantine, but Sweden has a strategy based more on getting information out and voluntary compliance. What if it turns out that you were wrong about this approach? There’s many people’s lives that are standing in the balance.

Anders Tegnell does not look so amused:

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Anders Tegnell, national epidemiologist

He says: I’m not the one who’s wrong, it’s a national authority  …

Holmberg hurries to say, yes, yes, I meant the Public  Health Authority, you and your colleagues.

Anders Tegnell: We believe that we are taking the entirely correct approach. If you go out on Stockholm’s streets, you’ll see that there are many fewer people out than normal.

Holmberg: So is everyone else in all the other countries just wrong, then?

Tegnell: I’m just not sure that those other countries have achieved anything much beyond what we have, with us using information and voluntary compliance as we usually do in Sweden. I think it’s very important to use the sorts of tools that we already know work within the public health sector. And in Sweden that is built on trust, voluntary compliance, and that each person looks for good solutions. In other countries, there’s other traditions, where you might use laws to force people to take things seriously.

Holmberg, the newscaster, again: But aren’t you worried that it will turn out that you have taken the wrong path?

Tegnell: No one knows at all how this is going to turn out …

Holmberg: that’s not my question, but are you worried?

Tegnell: Of course, everyone is worried, including me, about how this will develop. I’m not so worried that here in Sweden it will turn out much differently compared to other countries. We will all need to confront this in different ways and take different measures. So far, the situation has developed fairly in Sweden. The medical sector continues to cope with the measures we have taken. If we need to take more measures, then we will.

Holmberg: It’s still early now.

Tegnell: Exactly.

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Anders Tegnell interviewed by Anders Holmberg

(By the way, I’m not entirely sure when this interview was conducted, but it was sometime around March 29, 2020).

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 25, 2020

Another day, another press conference on coronavirus from Sweden.

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Press conference of the Swedish public health officials, March 25, 2020

They had 2510 cases in Sweden at this point, and 42 deaths. There were about 375,000 cases worldwide.

The press conference started with the national epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who I think was more interested in talking about the USA than anything else. He says: the US has a big potential for many cases; in the US, a lot is happening very quickly.

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Anders Tegnell

As for Sweden, says Anders Tegnell, we have a pretty stable situation here in Sweden. Here’s the PowerPoint slide he showed of new cases per day, up to that day:

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Cases of coronavirus per day in Sweden, March 25, 2020

Tegnell further said: from the doctors on the ground, we hear that there’s pressure in Stockholm; and some pressure even in the other cities. But elsewhere it’s pretty calm. He repeats, we still have a pretty stable situation.

Further from Tegnell: We still have a lot of cases aged 50-59. We think it’s still because those people recently returned from traveling. We don’t have a lot of old people (aged 70+) sick.

Then Tegnell turned the topic over to testing for the virus. Some people have asked, why is there so little testing in Sweden? Well, says Tegnell, we are testing more and more every week. We have lots of labs willing to test, but it seems there’s a bottleneck among medical people in having the time to test so many and then properly send in the tests to the labs. At this point in the epidemic, they don’t want to just go out in society and test whoever, because there’s no point.

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Weekly tests of coronavirus in Sweden

And Tegnell reiterates the main strategies that they are focused on to slow the spread: stay home if you’re sick. Re-think your trips. Don’t visit your old relatives. It’s good to work from home, but make sure to talk to your boss that it’s not disrupting the work.

Then it was the turn of Taha Alexandersson to speak:

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Taha Alexandersson

She says: We are working well with the military on distributing equipment (?), and they already had good collaboration built up between the medical sector and the army sector so it’s been going great. At this point, we’re not in such a crisis where we have to worry about medical staff working without proper protection.

An American named Frank asks a question. This man works for Radio Sweden, and I’m sorry, but hes clearly annoying, unfortunately. He also mispronounces Anders’ name.

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Frank from Radio Sweden

Frank asks (in English): Sweden is relying on people taking personal responsibility and following recommendations. Some people are saying that’s not enough and that stricter enforcement is needed. Based on what you’re hearing and seeing, are recommendations enough, or do you want more enforcement?

Anders Tegnell (answers in English): so far, we are happy with what we are hearing. I mean, a lot of people and organizations are finding innovative ways to avoid contact. We can look at the infection curves. They’re not going up in a catastrophic manner. We are happy with it so far. We do believe that we can continue this way, which is how we normally work in Swedish communicable disease control, with voluntary measures. People are very responsible. They are taking correct decisions most of the time. We will see what happens in the future if we need more enforcement. And we will follow the outlook and progress in other countries with more enforcement: does that enforcement really make a difference, or is what we are doing now here in Sweden just as good, or maybe even better, rather than trying to force people to do things?

It has to be stated, Anders Tegnell looked quite pleased with himself giving this answer.

Then it’s the turn of a German journalist to ask a question, but he manages to do it Swedish: In Germany there’s a lot more restrictions. And one big point of difference is the infectiousness of people without symptoms. In Germany, we’re discussing about a scientific study from Hong Kong University that 30-40% of people are infectious before they show any symptoms. Of course, this is just one study out of many, but you all here say that, no, you become infectious after you display symptoms. So can you clarify what you think about this? Have you heard about this research out of Hong Kong?

Anders Tegnell: yes, I’ve heard of it, but they’re not actually talking about asymptomatic people, they’re talking about undocumented cases: people who had symptoms but weren’t sick enough to go to the hospital. We ask that people even with very, very mild symptoms of illness — who wouldn’t at all consider needing to go to the hospital — to stay at home. Those people are indeed infectious. As you say, there is certainly also a risk of infection from people completely without symptoms. But that’s very low compared to risk of infection from people with symptoms. What we are now trying to do is not to stop the infection completely. That’s not possible. This illness is here to say. But we are trying to keep the infection rate as low as possible with reasonable measures, so we can flatten our curve, so we can have a situation that the hospitals are able to cope with. And our evaluation is that this is possible to do by isolating people with symptoms. This is our thinking and strategy.

German journalist: But there was another study that showed << something something, starts describing details >>

Anders Tegnell interrupts: oh, I’ve seen that study, too, our statisticians are looking into it, but it was a very small study, it’s very hard also to assume that << something something >> … there’s a lot in that study that one could discuss about whether or not  << something something >>

After that was over, the people at the podium switched positions with a new group, and the press conference continued. This time, the representatives were all from civil society, as opposed to the public health people who had just had their turn:

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Civil society representatives in Sweden

They talked about civil society and helping people. This is enormous, one of them  proclaimed. We’ve had a social mobilization. There’s lots of entities involved: the municipalities, the national sports club (?), Swedish Red Cross, Save the Children, the Swedish Church, and Sweden’s << something >>. So a couple of them spoke, but it was kind of boring.

Then it was back briefly to the studio with the lady who was the chief anchor:

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And then they went back again to the room with the press conference, to do an interview with Anders Tegnell.

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Anders Tegnell said: We want to keep this stable situation as long as possible. Every day we win now, that means that when the curve starts to go up, which it will, it will be flatter and have a lower peak.

The correspondent asks: Where on this curve are we now?

Tegnell: well, we are still quite far down on it. We’re not up on the steep part. And hopefully, if everything goes as we hope it will, we will stay on the flatter curve and it will go better than seen in some other countries.

Correspondent: You pointed the US out as a critical area. Explain.

Tegnell: well, you see a very quick increase. Already lots of deaths and lots of people in intensive care. It might even be a little late to take control now. We shall see.

Correspondent: Norway has decided to close schools. Have you seen if that’s stopped the spread?

Tegnell: it’s too soon to say. It’s only been 1 week since they closed the schools. And there’s no big difference in their coronavirus case increase compared to other Nordic countries. We’d need lots of weeks to be able to draw conclusions.

And Tegnell closes by saying: If we start to see locations with lot of new cases here in Sweden, then we would look into additional measures to take. But on a national level, the most important things are the things we’ve already talked about. It looks like we’ve been successful so far, we have a pretty flat curve and now it’s just a matter of hanging in there with the measures: stay home if you’re sick, work from home when possible, and protect the old.

Then it was back to the studio, and this reporter gave some summary:

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Tomas Eriksson, SVT reporter in Sweden

Reporter: We are quite early on the curve. We don’t have the steep rise as seen in Italy or Spain, and earlier in China. I get a feel that there’s quite good monitoring/control right now.

And because they can’t help themselves, they had to finish by talking about the US: yes, there’s a worrying situation there. But also, we hear that Congress came up with a rescue package, $2 trillion, that amount of money is hard to even wrap your head around.

And they talked about the different pots of money from the overall package being distributed to families, corporations, or hospitals.

Sweden coronavirus press conference, March 30, 2020

On this day, they had 4028 confirmed cases. There were 715,000 cases globally.

These pictures come from SVT, I think that stands for Svensk TV (Swedish TV).

Disclaimer: My Swedish is not 100%.

Here was the lady who was the main anchor, and beside her is one of the sign-language workers.

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The name of the anchor is Hiba Daniel.

And here was their correspondent over at where the press conference was being held. It was a press conference of the public health officials.

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Diamant Salihu, SVT correspondent

And then they got started with the press conference, here you see the speakers:

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Press conference of the public health officials, Sweden

The man in the middle is Anders Tegnell. He is the national epidemiologist. In his opening remarks, he makes sure to say, by the way, the USA has a growing crisis.

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Anders Tegnell, national epidemiologist

Anders Tegnell has a PowerPoint that he shows. Below is a slide of the new cases of coronavirus every day. The reason you see continual humps is because cases aren’t counted during the weekend. That results in the little dip about every 7 days. The weekend cases are then added in later (I guess). The blue line is people coming into the intensive care.

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Coronavirus cases by day, March 30, 2020

The blue intensive care line is low, that is true, but Anders Tegnell says that doesn’t mean everything is fine and dandy in the intensive care units. Instead, because patients stay in intensive care for a long time, it gets successively more crowded in there.

And here is the graph of deaths per day:

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Coronavirus deaths per day, Sweden, March 30, 2020

But then Tegnell closes by saying, looks like we in Sweden still have a flatter coronavirus curve.

The main advice is repeated: stay home if you’re sick. And the risks for old people and people working in the medical field must be minimized.

Then Taha Alexandersson speaks. She is in charge of dishing out medical equipment across the country. She says there’s no shortages, but also no surplus.

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Taha Alexandersson, Crisis preparation chief in Sweden

Then a man called Svante Werger speaks. He says: we are more vulnerable at this time, so please be critical of the news you are reading, and of where it comes from. If you see information that makes you become very upset or excited, stop and think: is this reliable information?

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Svante Werger, Strategic advisor

Werger finishes by talking about all the ways his team is planning to get official information and recommendations and rules out to people.

Once everyone was finished talking, it was time for questions.

Question 1 was about retirement communities. There’s reports that some already have coronavirus in them. So what are you planning to do?

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The press corps at the Swedish public health press conference

Anders Tegnell says: we have recommendations to stop virus spread in retirement homes. However, these recommendation won’t work 100%. So far, we’ve done pretty good but it’s impossible to completely stop it. But <<something something>>. The more the guidelines are followed, the better.

Then there was a back-and-forth between a journalist and Anders Tegnell about mouth masks. The journalist was saying that doctors want mouth masks, but according to the national recommendations, mouth masks are not essential protective equipment (??)

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Anders Tegnell answers: well, first, when we take decisions about what is essential protective equipment, we do want to make sure those decisions have buy-in from the doctors. Second, know that more protection doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. Sometimes, more protection makes it hard to do your job.

Journalist: But you say that there’s not a lot of science yet about what protective equipment is essential. Why are you therefore deciding to have less protection than may potentially be necessary, instead of more protection?

Anders: I didn’t say there’s no science about it, I said there’s no published science about it. So <<something something>>, and we’re going to follow that.

There was a person in the audience who actually wasn’t a journalist, but it was a person who works in a retirement community. He asked: we have one person sick already. Should we be testing our staff without symptoms to be sure they don’t have it? Why wait till someone has symptoms?

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Man working at the retirement home

Anders Tegnell: there’s no test that can detect coronavirus without symptoms. The test won’t give you good results.

Then they closed out the press conference, and they did individual interviews. First, there was an interview with Anders Tegnell, in which he asserted: looks like we’ll have a relatively flat coronavirus curve here in Sweden. But of course, there’s a lot of pressure on the hospitals, especially in Stockholm.

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Anders Tegnell at his individual interview

Diamant Salihu, the SVT correspondent, asks him: Sweden has twice as high a death rate as Norway and Germany. Why?

Anders Tegnell: I don’t think we should make those comparisons at this point, we’re all at different points in the epidemic. If you look at Denmark and Netherlands, they have many more deaths than Sweden.

Then there’s an individual interview with Taha Alexandersson, who is repeating the advice that no one travels during Easter.

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Taha Alexandersson

Finally, it’s back to the studio with Hiba. Hiba is joined by a reporter, so they can talk back and forth.

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Iva Horvatovic

And what do they talk about? First, they again have to drag the US into it: there’s over 100,000 cases.

And here are their final summaries:

— so far, the hospitals are coping in Sweden, but it can get overwhelming quite quickly.

— the government is not making super strict laws about self-isolating and quarantining, because this is something that can continue for a while, and they want to have guidelines in place that people will be able to follow for months and months.

— how are Sweden’s measures being reported in international media? According to Iva, here’s been some articles about it, and the criticisms are mostly in the comment sections.