Sweden appoints panel to examine controversial virus response

Sweden said Tuesday it was setting up a commission to evaluate the country’s response to the novel coronavirus, which has courted controversy by being softer than the rest of Europe.

“The ability of the entire community to come together is one of Sweden’s great strengths. But at the same time this crisis has put a spotlight on shortfalls in our society,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a press conference.

The committee would be “tasked with evaluating the government’s, the authorities’, the health regions’ and municipalities’ measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and the effects of the spread,” Lofven said.

It will be headed by Mats Melin, an attorney who formerly served on Sweden’s top court for administrative cases.

Following demands from opposition parties the commission would produce a final report by February of 2022, before Sweden’s next general election.

But a preliminary report would be produced as early as November of this year.

Unlike most European nations, Sweden never closed society down, opting instead to keep schools for under-16s open, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants and most businesses.

The country’s Public Health Agency has argued that lockdowns only work temporarily, insisting that drastic short-term measures are too ineffective to justify their impact on people.

The approach has however been the subject of intense debate, especially as Sweden’s death toll has far surpassed the tolls in neighbouring Nordic countries, which all imposed more restrictive containment measures at the outset of the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the country of 10.3 million inhabitants reported a total of 68,451 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and 5,333 deaths.

Sweden has seen an uptick in new cases in recent weeks, but the country’s Public Health Agency said this could largely be traced to a dramatic increase in the number of tests being performed, as the number of deaths and people treated in intensive care has remained steady.