STOCKHOLM — As COVID-19 shuts down vast swathes of the world, Sweden has become Europe's last "open" holdout. In the 10-million strong Nordic country, borders, elementary schools, offices, gyms and even restaurants remain open. So far, some 5,500 have tested positive for the virus and more than 300 people have died, but the government stands firm: No lockdown is the order of the day. So, what's the rationale?
State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell argues the virus will inevitably pass through a large chunk of the population, and that China-style containment will only cause it to flare up again. Rather, the better way is to manage the pace of the spread — for which a lockdown is superfluous.
Similarly, Public Health Agency general director Johan Carlson says locking people up for months at a time is a far worse "experiment," than controlling the spread over time. He says citizens will question rigid measures that make no sense: "Why can only one person walk the dog if there are two owners who live together?" Carlson asked in a recent interview with Public Service Television (SVT).
Sweden seems to have successfully implemented the approach Boris Johnson initially espoused.
It's worth noting that Swedish health authorities enjoy unusually high independence. For comparison, in neighboring Norway and Denmark the government ignored health authorities' recommendation to keep schools open. Tegnell, who gives daily briefs to the Swedish people, has been more successful in selling his strategy, which is supported by 52% of the population, according to a survey by Svenska Dagbladet.
So far, in fact, Sweden seems to be implementing the controversial approach Boris Johnson initially espoused in the UK. Tegnell is banking against a scenario predicted in the much talked-about study from Imperial College London that warned attempts to let the virus spread to eventually immunize the population would bring one million British deaths. Tegnell dismissed that study, which pushed Johnson to opt for a lockdown, as "not peer reviewed," and said he was surprised it had stirred up such as fuzz in the UK.
But some form of Swedish lockdown may be on its way. The death toll is considerably higher than in the other Scandinavian countries, and Sweden finally banned gatherings of more than 50 people earlier this week, reports Dagens Nyheter. Look for authorities to incrementally roll out more restrictions as the death toll climbs.
A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.
A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."
The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.
Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021
Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021
Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?
The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.
The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.
The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."
The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."
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