Right from the start, I would like to say that I voluntarily imposed a quarantine on myself. Well, almost… Those who know me, know that if I don't have a knife pointed to my throat, I won't hold back from some weekend brunches and shopping. And why should I, if I don't have to? In Sweden, restaurants, cafes and shops have been open since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and masks are voluntary. So why do I actually stay home 90% of my time? And why a lot of Swedes probably did the same?
You have probably heard that the Swedes naturally keep their distance and are not used to such things as kissing, like in the south of Europe. Therefore, when posters began to appear all over Sweden with the recommendation that people should keep a distance of 1.5 m - 2 m, at the same time the jokes began to appear that the Swedes would finally get closer. And you know what? They're right! We exchange some basic greetings with our neighbors in the elevator and otherwise we look at the ground. What would we talk about anyway, when my Swedish is almost at the same level as when I arrived. Well, this is the magical thing in Sweden… Almost everyone here understands English, so the need to learn Swedish is easily lost. But I don't want to make excuses for myself and the fact that I can still say only a few basic phrases and sentences. I'm ashamed, but let's move on!
What I appreciate about Stockholm, where I currently live, is the fact that you don't have to live our life in fear. You can go to a hairdresser, a florist, the subway, a store… and you don't have to wear a face mask. You don't have to think about the coronavirus pandemic 24/7 and you don't feel like you're trapped in a nightmare. Also, in stores, you don't currently come across empty toilet paper shelves or anything else, as was the case, for example, in the spring, when the whole pandemic broke out.
However, I would like to point out that there is definitely no anarchy. Everyone is aware of how serious the situation is here and in the world. What the Swedes have significantly reduced from the start is going to nightclubs and bars. But I'm not gonna lie to you, some smaller home parties are also held here and there. For example, I was recently invited to a Halloween one. In my current fashion, however, I preferred to bury myself in a blanket, pour a glass of wine and go to bed.
If the Swedes really don't want to give up something, then it's the leisure activities, especially the outdoor ones. Which, after all, is recommended, right? Just go for a walk outside for a few minutes and you will meet runners, cyclists, skateboarders or a group of friends playing mini golf. Nordic walking or just sitting in a park on a bench and enjoying nature is also popular.
As Swedes are naturally reserved, they are quite disciplined. So when the government recommends something, they usually follow it. It's currently recommended that people refrain from visiting indoor spaces, such as shops, museums, libraries, swimming pools or gyms, or from attending gatherings, concerts and matches until November 19th. And then there's the refraining from holding or attending parties and other social gatherings.
There is still a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. In addition, from November 3rd, the audience must sit at concerts and no more than 8 people can meet at the table in a restaurant. Until December 22nd, travel to Sweden from outside the EU is also suspended unless passengers have a significant reason.
Like Prague, Stockholm has also closed popular Christmas markets this year. Not even the one at Gamla Stan (Old Town) is an exception, which with its design and location resembles ours in the Old Town Square. Just in size, it's usually one third of it.
In the past, Sweden has also canceled the classic celebrations of the Swedish National Day, the celebrations associated with the Midsummer holiday and the popular Oktoberfest.
The Swedish Public Health Agency recommends that those who feel sick stay at home. And I know that it does work that way in practise. Some of my acquaintances, or acquaintances of my acquaintances, didn't even go to a doctor, they just stayed at home and gave up contact with others for a while. It's also recommended to keep your distance from people and wash your hands often with soap and water - so nothing new.
Although the number of infected people in Sweden is also currently increasing (a record 4,497 cases three days ago), the number dropped again the following day (3,441). According to the latest published data, more than 146,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed by Swedes since the beginning of the pandemic, while the Czech Republic has already had more than 403,000 cases, although the number of tests performed is even higher in Sweden. According to the latest data, it's approximately 240,000 per million inhabitants, and in the Czech Republic approximately 235,000 per million inhabitants.
Sweden has also seen a significant drop in the number of deaths. While at the beginning of the pandemic the number of victims was in the order of tens per day, we are now talking about single digits.
The question remains, is it the distance, the discipline, the treatment at home or not taking the tests, even though people feel sick? Hard to say. Anyway, let's get back to the beginning. Why did I voluntarily quarantine myself, except for a few brunch parties?
First of all, I'm lucky to be able to work from home. In addition, a flexible type of employment (home office) has been supported by a number of companies in Sweden since the beginning of the pandemic. Another fact is that together with autumn, the rainy weather begins here and you wouldn't even leave a dog outside in it, and moreover at 3pm it's as dark as in the Czech Republic at 8pm. And third, I try to be responsible to myself and considerate of others. So that's why I firmly believe that the autumn and winter and a human consideration will become an effective weapon in the fight against coronavirus not only here, but all over the world. And finally, hopefully we will be able to start a new and happier year together again, side by side...
PS. And now, you have to excuse me. I have to go feed our squirrels and birds that have moved in with us in the recent months. And what positive did this pandemic bring you? I believe we can all find something together.