Sweden’s King Slams the Country’s Coronavirus Response

When Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf delivered his annual Christmas speech in December 2019, he mentioned some of the hot-button issues facing the country, like climate change and violence. But his main focus was the future. “In just a few days, the bells will ring in a new year and a new decade,” he said. “The twenties are still a clean slate.”

In an excerpt from a pre-recorded Christmas interview released Friday, the king takes a more strident tone because of the coronavirus pandemic, proving just how much has changed in a single year. “I think we have failed,” he said in the interview, which will be broadcast on Monday. “A large number have died, and that is terrible.”

Unlike most European countries, Sweden avoided a large-scale lockdown this spring, choosing instead to recommend that citizens avoid public places and asking bars and restaurants to operate social distancing requirements. The country has suffered about 7,800 deaths due to the pandemic, a death rate about 10 times higher than its neighbor Norway, though the country’s health minister has blamed the disproportionate toll on outbreaks in the country’s nursing homes.

At the height of the pandemic, the 74-year old king and his 76-year-old wife, Queen Silvia, retreated to a castle in the countryside, but returned to their Stockholm palace when the second wave of coronavirus cases that hit many other European countries seemed to skip the country. Throughout the pandemic, other members of the royal family have continued to go on engagements.

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“The people of Sweden have suffered tremendously in difficult conditions,” the king said. “One thinks of all the family members who have happened to be unable to say goodbye to their deceased family members. I think it is a tough and traumatic experience not to be able to say a warm goodbye.”

Though the king aimed his criticism at political leaders, the country’s prime minister, Stefan Lofven, said that he agreed with the comments. “Of course, the fact that so many have died can’t be considered as anything other than a failure,” he said in a press conference, per the BBC, before cautioning that it is too soon to render a verdict on the government’s policy. “It’s when we are through the pandemic that the real conclusions can be drawn.”

The interview comes days after the king’s son Prince Carl Phillip and his wife, Princess Sofia, announced that they were expecting their third child, just weeks after recovering from their own bout of COVID-19. In his interview, the king was asked if he was concerned about contracting the disease himself. ““Lately, it has felt more obvious, it has crept closer and closer,” he said. “That’s not what you want.”

Published at www.vanityfair.com