South Asia and Beyond

Sweden Had Pre-Pandemic Economic Muscle To Take Strong Measures: Foreign Minister

NEW DELHI: Sweden’s strategy to save the elderly from the coronavirus has been unsuccessful. With that frank admission, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde tells StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi that the government is increasing funding by about $ 220 million to care for the elderly. Fifty percent of those above 70 years old, who have died from Covid-19 in Sweden, lived in nursing homes. As of May 11, the country had 3,256 Covid-19 related deaths. Ms Linde, though, refutes the argument that Sweden has been following a strategy of herd immunity, insisting that the goal is to hinder the spread of the virus, save lives, take pressure off the health system and also mitigate the effect on the economy, business and jobs.

Sweden has chosen a ‘lighter touch’ lockdown with schools, restaurants and shops staying open. The strategy has so far helped protect the economy from the worst, but Sweden’s death rate is about 32 per 100,000, compared with 24 in the U.S. and roughly 9 in neighboring Denmark. The minister says Sweden expects GDP to fall 6.5 % and unemployment to rise 10%, but adds the government has been able to take strong measures because of the ‘country’s pre-pandemic economic muscle.’

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‘I have picked up the phone twice and called India’s Foreign Minister Jaishankar whenever we have had a problem and he’s been very, very helpful,’ Ms Linde says, adding Prime Ministers Stefan Löfven and Narendra Modi have discussed vaccine clinical trials being worked on bilaterally. There should be accountability, but withdrawing funds from the WHO in the middle of the pandemic is wrong, the minister told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a call recently. She also agrees there should be a probe into the origins of the virus but adds there is no evidence that it was created purposely.

Linde says the police are prioritising the probe into the death of Pakistani dissident journalist Sajid Hussain, but hasn’t reached any conclusion yet. Missing since March, he was found dead in a river prompting reports that Pakistan state agencies were responsible for his killing.

Ann Linde is a Swedish politician of the Social Democratic Party, serving as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the government of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven since September 2019. Ms Linde previously served as Minister for Foreign Trade and Minister for Nordic Cooperation. Before that she was the Minister for European Union Affairs and Trade in the Löfven Cabinet since May 2016.

Amitabh P. Revi

Russian language speaker and conflict journalist. Amitabh Revi has been there, done that—from the battlefields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to sublime Russia, Australia and the United States. Along the way he's picked up the Dag Hammarskjöld Distinguished Journalist Fellowship, the Ramnath Goenka award for coverage of the Iraq War and RT's Khaled Alkhateb Award for his reporting from Palmyra, Syria.


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