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In Sweden, the inhabitants have the “coronaskam”, the shame of the country’s strategy in the face of Covid-19

STOCKHOLM LETTER

The year 2019 popularized the word “flygskam”: in Swedish, shame – “Skam” – to take the plane – “Flyga” -, this polluting means of transport. The year 2020 quickly fixed the problem, bringing most of the world’s population to the ground. However, the Swedes did not let go of their feeling of dishonor. The “flygskam” has succeeded the “coronaskam”: literally, the “shame of the corona”.

At issue: the Swedish strategy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s decision in Stockholm not to confine its population. Among its neighbors, having all adopted more restrictive measures, this gentle approach first aroused incomprehension, before provoking fear, and sometimes hostility. Because in the end, Sweden recorded 4.5 times more deaths than Denmark, nearly nine times more than Finland and Iceland, and eleven times more than Norway.

However, the Nordics want to believe that they have more in common than differences: a history, a culture, traditions, and even language for some. In short, ” a very strong identity, not always easy to measure from abroad ”, assures Anna Hallberg, Swedish Minister for Nordic Affairs. Since 1952 – and until the arrival of the coronavirus – their nationals could even move from one country to another, without showing their passport.

This does not prevent rivalries. In sports, for example: between Sweden and Finland, in hockey; between Sweden and Norway, in cross-country skiing; between Sweden and Denmark, football… In fact: it is often the Swedish “big brother”, twice as populated, a bit arrogant, that the Nordics like to compete.

But “All this has nothing to do with what has happened since the start of the pandemic”, insists Bertel Haarder, Danish member of the Liberal Party and president of the council for freedom of movement set up by the five countries. From 1er January 2021, he will take the head of the Nordic Council, in a completely new context.

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Reappearance of borders in the region

Not only, since March, borders have reappeared in the region, which has caused trauma in neighboring regions, whose economy has been severely affected. But many Swedes say they are stigmatized by their neighbors. This is particularly the case for some of the 14,000 cross-border workers who live in Sweden and work in Norway, some of whom say they are ostracized by their colleagues or their employers. Every week, they have to be tested at a Norwegian testing center.

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