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Even the King of Sweden says the country’s COVID-19 strategy has failed

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‘I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died and that is terrible. It is something we all suffer.’

That’s Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf admitting to state broadcaster SVT in an annual broadcast that his country’s anti-lockdown coronavirus strategy has failed, amid a higher rate of infections than its Nordic neighbors Finland and Sweden.

He said it had been a “terrible year” and that the Swedish people had suffered “enormously” in difficult conditions, with many not given the opportunity to share final moments with dying relatives. “I think it is a heavy and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye,” Carl XVI Gustaf said.

According to the latest data from the Public Health Agency of Sweden, 7,802 people have died from COVID-19 in Sweden, the highest in the Nordic region.

The king’s comments come after the two major Swedish regions of Stockholm and Skåne were both forced to postpone nonemergency care, as the health-care sector struggles to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases. “We will manage emergency care, we will manage COVID care. But this will happen at the expense of other health care,” said Skåne’s regional director Alf Jönsson at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Stockholm region also said that it would delay all non-urgent care until at least Jan. 31, 2021.

Read: Sweden faces a ‘terrible’ reality as health-care workers quit

On Monday, Sineva Ribeiro, chairwoman of the Swedish Association of Health Professionals, told Bloomberg about a “terrible” situation in Sweden as coronavirus infections continue to spread and there was “a shortage of specialist nurses, including at ICUs,” before the pandemic hit in March.

After months of voluntary measures and no lockdowns, the Swedish government in November performed a U-turn, introducing enforced restrictions on public gatherings to curb the spread of the virus. 

Later in the month, Sweden’s state epidemiologist said that the country had not seen evidence of herd immunity slowing the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Sweden’s approach to protect the elderly from coronavirus was also criticized in a report from the country’s independent coronavirus commission on Tuesday, which said in its preliminary findings that the strategy had failed and that the government was responsible.

Of those who have died of COVID-19 in Sweden, almost 90% were aged 70 years or older, the commission said.  

“We find it most likely that the single most important factor behind the major outbreaks and the high number of deaths in residential care is the overall spread of the virus in the society,” it added. “The ultimate responsibility for these shortcomings rests with the government in power — and with the previous governments that also possessed this information.”

Finland and Norway, which have half the population of Sweden, said over the weekend that they were on standby to provide the country with medical assistance, should its government request it. The offer was made after Swedish officials said last week that Stockholm’s intensive-care units were almost full to capacity, according to the country’s public broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

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