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Calls for a national lockdown in Sweden, which has stood out from other countries in resisting such steps, are on the rise amid a deadly new wave of the virus.

Officials in Sweden are now weighing their options for entering a coronavirus lockdown after evading initial temporary shutdowns during the pandemic’s first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Bjorn Eriksson, a regional health director, said Tuesday that intensive care units (ICU) in Stockholm “are far beyond 100 percent of capacity,” the New York Times reported.

The country earlier this year showcased alternative options for managing the pandemic without shuttering businesses, allowing for much of normal life to continue despite the ever-spreading virus.

The Times interviewed people at a Stockholm cafe not wearing masks; the people noted masks weren’t recommended by their government’s health officials. 

Yet with deaths and hospitalizations rising, questions again are being asked about whether Sweden should introduce more restrictions — and whether it should have done so previously.

Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said Monday that experts had underestimated the impact of the virus’s second wave.

His comments marked the first instance of a Swedish official calling into question the handling of the pandemic by the country’s Public Health Agency, headed by state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

“I think that most in the profession did not see a second wave coming,” Lofven told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, according to the Times.

On Monday, officials sent out text message alerts cautioning people to limit gatherings at Christmas. A ban on serving alcohol after 10 p.m. has been imposed on bars and businesses.

Swedish law bars the government from issuing forced orders to say at home or penalizing violations of recommendations with fines.

The country’s schools have remained open for children under 16, though some schools are closing now due to reports of virus outbreaks.

While some critics are pushing for harsher measures to curb the spread of the virus, the government is working to draft emergency laws giving officials power to order lockdowns and close businesses, citing public health emergencies.

Tags Aftonbladet Anders Tegnell COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns Physicians Sweden The New York Times

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